According to a recent study, 18 million adult Americans each year suffer from sleep apnea. New research into this field indicates that for many victims there could potentially be a new long term solution. That solution is so-called nerve ‘Zap’ treatment.

In nerve ‘Zap’ treatment, a ‘nerve stimulator’ is implanted into the patient, which functions by sending electrical signals to a nerve that controls muscles in the tongue. Those signals force the tongue to protrude forward of the airway keeping it open for respiration. This treatment, also called by it’s trade name ‘Inspire’, was recently approved for use in the United States after a clinical trial that took place in 2014.

Current data shows that of 65 patients treated most are still doing well and report that the quality of their sleep had ‘normalized’ and the number of ‘apnea episodes’ they were suffering from had significantly reduced in number. In fact, according to Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, a specialist in the field, after five years of study many patients were still using the device successfully and no increase in voltage over time was required indicative of this being an excellent long term solution.

Problematically though, the device does require that patients have a BMI of less than 32, which excludes many of obese population and costs in the neighborhood of $20,000 per unit. Overall though, something that can help us all sleep better.

Key Points:

  • 1The nerve treatment means sleep apnea patients don’t have to wear CPAPS, the somewhat invasive sleep mask.
  • 2The nerve zap treatment called Inspire sends electrical signals to the tongue, moving it forward to prevent blocking air which is what causes issues with sleep apnea.
  • 3It is not a perfect solution. It costs $20,000, does not work for everyone and has some negative side effects like a numb tongue. But it is in early development and will likely improve.

People with more serious cases of sleep apnea may get lasting relief from an implanted nerve stimulator, a new study finds.


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