Back in January of 2011, I posted about a device developed to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that could potentially replace CPAP. It's an implantable stimulator that causes the tongue to thrust forward, preventing it from collapsing backwards and blocking off the throat.
In the November edition of the Journal Sleep, Dr. Eastwood and others did a study on 21 patients with moderate to severe OSA that had failed CPAP therapy. They monitored the patients for 6 months and had repeat sleep studies to determine its effectiveness. The results showed that the nerve stimulator did decrease OSA severity and daytime sleepiness. It also improved some aspects of their sleep architecture and daytime functioning. Adherence to the device was high and it was felt to be safe with a low complication rate.
When looking at the details, the device reduced the OSA severity by 55% - from an average AHI of 43.1 to 19.5 at 6 months. But an AHI of 19.5 is considered to be a moderate amount of OSA, with 5 or less being ideal. Also, the device worked better in patients that were thinner than those that were heavier, which makes anatomical sense.
This was a small study with no control group. It will be interesting to see the results from larger trials and for a longer follow up period. One day, this device could be a good alternative to those who have failed CPAP therapy.