For patients with obstructive sleep apnea who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), upper airway stimulation may offer an innovative alternative. Upper airway stimulation aims to relieve obstruction at the back of the tongue and front part of the throat. This works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat the root cause of sleep apnea.

Otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon, Zhen Gooi, MD, has years of expertise in providing upper airway stimulation to patients.

To determine if a patient is a good candidate for the treatment, a physician conducts an upper airway exam and reviews the patient’s sleep apnea study results.

Ideal candidates have:

  • Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea
  • Are unable to use or get consistent benefit from CPAP
  • Are not significantly obese

During an outpatient procedure, a small device is placed under the skin of the neck and chest through two or three small incisions. Most patients are able to come home the same day and return to normal, non-strenuous activities within a few days.

After the incisions heal, the patient uses a small handheld remote to turn the device on before bed and off when they wake up. The patient can pause therapy during the night if needed and increase or decrease therapy settings. Mild stimulation from the device opens the airway during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally. The patient is able to breathe normally, and more importantly, sleep peacefully without a mask, hose or machine.

Patients who use the upper airway stimulation therapy have fewer sleep apnea events, a high level of satisfaction and a high adherence to the therapy.

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