Experimental device works for many patients who can’t use breathing machines
P.J. Strollo et al/NEJM 2014
An implantable gizmo can halt obstructive sleep apnea, a nighttime breathing disorder that disrupts rest and robs the body of oxygen. The experimental device, an electronic pacemaker that syncs breathing with opening of the throat, relieved sleep apnea in two-thirds of people who tested it.
The volunteers had moderate-to-severe sleep apnea but couldn’t tolerate a standard treatment with a breathing machine that requires wearing a mask. That machine, called CPAP for continuous positive airway pressure, delivers air at a steady pace to keep airways open. Beyond CPAP, few treatments are available for severe sleep apnea, says study coauthor Ryan Soose, an otolaryngologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Other solutions are needed,” he says, and the pacemaker “comes at it in a really unique way, mainly targeting the anatomy of the throat.”
Soose and other researchers implanted pacemakers in 126 apnea patients, who were instructed