Saturday, January 1, 2011

Tongue Zapper

There is an article in the local paper about a new way to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Researchers are working on an implantable device that would send electrical signals to the nerve that controls the tongue. Tongue collapse onto the back of the throat can contribute to airway closure and OSA. By stimulating the tongue nerve (called the hypoglossal nerve) with electrical impulses, the tongue can be forced to contract, and consequently staying away from the back of the throat during sleep.

The article mentions three companies working on this implantable device. Inspire Medical Systems is planning to enroll 100 OSA patients in a study in the U.S. and Europe to see if the hypoglossal nerve stimulation works. ImThera Medical says it hopes to begin U.S. studies later next year, and Apnex Medical, has announced testing.

This type of treatment is exciting to me, as it could be used as a stand-alone therapy, replacing CPAP in some patients. It also might be part of a combination therapy with an oral applliance and/or upper airway surgery.

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