UCHealth first in state to offer newest technology for sleep apnea

Implantable device is new alternative for patients who can’t tolerate breathing masks
Dec. 17, 2015

FORT COLLINS, Colo.  – UCHealth is the first health system in Colorado to offer the latest alternative treatment option to people with obstructive sleep apnea.

Inspire therapy involves an implantable device that’s designed to keep airways open with the push of a button. It is now offered through UCHealth’s Poudre Valley Hospital Sleep Disorder Center in Fort Collins, where a team of specialists provides the most advanced care for patients.

Sleep apnea — a condition in which a person involuntarily pauses or stops breathing when asleep — affects about 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

“When you don’t sleep well and you’re not rested, the effect on your awake time is profound,” said Dr. Mark Petrun, a UCHealth pulmonologist who specializes in sleep medicine. “It affects your concentration, alertness and ability to get things done.”

Besides wreaking havoc on a person’s daily life, sleep apnea has serious and life-shortening consequences such as high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, Petrun added.

The most common treatment for sleep apnea — and until recently, the only option with a fairly high success rate — is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, while a person sleeps.

The CPAP machine supplies constant and steady air pressure through a hose and mask. Although the device is effective in treating sleep apnea more than 90 percent of the time, the number of people actually wearing the device longer than four hours per night drops to about 60 percent, said Cindy Crosby, manager of PVH’s Sleep Disorder Center.

Inspire therapy, approved by the FDA in 2014, provides a person relief without a mask, said Dr. Matthew Robertson, an otolaryngologist with Alpine Ear, Nose & Throat who performs the procedure.
Through Inspire therapy, an electrical stimulus is delivered to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the tongue, every time the patient breathes in. The stimulus prevents the tongue from falling backward and obstructing the airway.
In an outpatient procedure, a small battery is implanted under the skin in the upper part of the chest. From that device, one wire is directed to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the tongue, and another to the rib cage area so it can sense the patient’s natural breathing patterns. When a patient inspires, an electrical stimulus is delivered to the tongue. This gives the tongue tone and prevents it from falling backward and obstructing the airway. The device can be controlled — turned on at night and off in the morning — by a small handheld remote control.

In a clinical trial that implanted the Inspire device into patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea, patients experienced a 68 percent reduction in sleep apnea events, a significant reduction in snoring and significant improvements in quality of life, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is an exciting cutting-edge treatment option for CPAP-intolerant, sleep apnea patients,” Robertson said. “If the patient meets criteria, it will be a life-changing experience.”

Inspire therapy is not the solution for all patients. To qualify for the device, patients must meet the following qualifications:

  • Suffer from moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, which includes an Apnea-Hypopnea Index of 20-65. The API is the number of recorded apneas or hypopneas per hour of sleep.
  • Unable to use or get consistent benefit from a CPAP device.
  • Not significantly overweight with a total Body Mass Index 32 or less. Those with a BMI of 33-35 should consult with a physician.
  • Older than 22 years old.

For more information and a video about Inspire therapy, go to uchealth.org/maskfree or call 970.408.0581. Inspire is also available at UCHealth Metro Denver through Katherine Green, MD.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is a Front Range health system that delivers the highest quality patient care with the highest quality patient experience. UCHealth combines Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, University of Colorado Hospital and a network of more than 100 medical clinics into one organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. UCHealth partners with numerous community organizations to provide care. Separately, these institutions can continue providing superior care to patients and service to the communities they serve. Together, they push the boundaries of medicine, attracting more research funding, hosting more clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.