Don’t suffer with sleep apnea
By Dr. L. Steven Szeles, otolaryngologist at Bronson Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Specialists
As seen in Scene Magazine, March 2020
Bronson offers many forms of treatment, including Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation
Sleep apnea is a condition where breathing stops and starts while you sleep. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when your upper airway becomes blocked during sleep. The obstruction can be caused by either a physical or medical condition. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH), the signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea may include:
- Reduced or absent breathing
- Frequent loud snoring
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Decreases in attention, concentration, motor skills and memory
- Dry mouth or headaches when waking
- Sexual dysfunction or decreased libido
- Waking up often during the night to urinate
During sleep, your throat muscles and jaw relax. Large tonsils, tongue, soft palate or excess fat in your neck can then cause your airway to close. As your body struggles to take in air, you can be jolted awake as you gasp for air.
This lack of oxygen and interruption of sleep is both bothersome and unhealthy. Fortunately, there are treatments and procedures that can offer you relief.
Alcohol, smoking and obesity can increase your risk for sleep apnea. Maintaining a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?
Diagnosing sleep apnea starts with a discussion with your doctor. Your provider will collect your symptoms and assess your physical condition. If sleep apnea is suspected, your provider may decide to refer you to a sleep specialist to undergo a sleep study.
If the sleep specialist confirms that you have sleep apnea, there are a number of treatment options available.
Sometimes, lifestyle changes such as weight loss, smoking cessation and regular exercise may help. In other cases, an oral appliance, airway therapy or a surgical procedure is used to correct physical causes. Two options most commonly proposed by providers include wearing a mouthpiece or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.
A mouthpiece repositions the tongue and jaw to maintain an open airway, where CPAP involves wearing a mask that is attached via a hose to a machine. The CPAP machine provides a constant flow of air throughout the night. The flow of air helps to keep your airway open while you sleep.
While these options work well for some, they can prove problematic or ineffective for others.
Bryan Smalley, Inspire patient
Find out how the Inspire treatment helped Bryan regain his quality of life.
Bronson now offers Inspire for sleep apnea
Since 2017, Bronson has offered an alternative treatment, Inspire, for those who cannot wear a mouthpiece and for whom the use of CPAP has proven to be ineffective. Inspire is a small surgically implanted device that works inside the body to treat moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. During sleep, Inspire monitors breathing patterns and delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles, allowing the airway to remain open during sleep. The patient uses a small handheld remote to turn Inspire on before bed and off in the morning. Unlike CPAP, no mask or hose are needed.
The Inspire system consists of a small pulse generator and two thin wires. Inspire is placed deep under the skin of the neck and chest through three small incisions during an outpatient procedure. Most patients return home the same day and can return to non-strenuous activities within a few days. Over-the-counter pain medication is typically used for a few days after the procedure for any discomfort the patient may feel.
Who is a candidate for this procedure?
Inspire is for people who:
- have been diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea
- are unable to use or get consistent benefit from CPAP
- are not significantly obese
- are age 22 or older
Speak with your doctor for more information about risks and conditions that may affect whether you qualify for Inspire. Individuals who receive the device will be monitored one to two times a year.
Concerned that you might have sleep apnea?
Schedule an appointment with your primary care provider. They can evaluate your symptoms, perform a physical exam and send you to a sleep specialist for a sleep test if they determine that you may have a sleep disorder.
Find out more about sleep health and the Bronson Sleep Lab at bronsonhealth.com/sleep. You can reach Bronson Sleep Health Specialists at (269) 324-0799.
Dr. Szeles bio:
Dr. Szeles is a surgeon at Bronson Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Specialists in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. He is the currently the only physician in the region offering Inspire Upper Airway Stimulation as a treatment option. He can be reached by calling Bronson Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery Specialists at (269) 245-8590 or (269)381-0180.