Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy

Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy

An estimated 18 million Americans live with sleep apnea, often using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to get a better night’s sleep. But now there’s a novel approach for treating sleep apnea that is available at Christiana Care Health System.

What is upper airway stimulation therapy?

Upper airway stimulation therapy is a breakthrough implantable treatment option for people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea who are unable to use or get consistent benefit from Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).

While you’re sleeping, the implantable device monitors every breath you take. Based on your unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve which controls the movement of your tongue and other key airway muscles. By stimulating these muscles, the airway remains open during sleep.

The upper airway stimulation device is controlled by a small handheld sleep remote. The remote allows you to turn the device on before bed and off when you wake up, increase and decrease stimulation strength, and pause during the night if needed.

Is upper airway stimulation therapy right for me?

You might be a candidate if you:

  • Have moderate to severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
  • Are unable to use or get consistent benefit from CPAP.
  • Are not significantly overweight.
  • Are over the age of 22.

Our process…

How do I get started?

If you’re interested in being evaluated for upper airway stimulation therapy, please call one of the following providers:

Christiana Care Oral & Facial Surgery Center
Dr. Daniel J. Meara and Dr. Etern S. Park
302-320-5730
ENT & Allergy of Delaware
Dr. Kieran M. Connolly and Dr. Jagdeep S. Hundal
302-998-0300

Surgical evaluation

Your process begins with an evaluation by a specially trained physician. Your physician will determine if you are a candidate for the surgery and if this treatment might be a suitable CPAP alternative for you.

Surgery

The upper airway stimulation therapy system is typically implanted during an outpatient procedure under general anesthetic. The system is placed under the skin of the neck and chest through three small incisions. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks that you should be aware of. You should discuss the specifics of the procedure with your doctor.

Once all pre-operative requirements have been met, you will be scheduled for a surgical clearance appointment with your surgeon and obtain approval from your insurance.  Your surgery will be scheduled at Christiana Care’s Wilmington Hospital.

Follow-up

Follow-up appointments will be an essential part of your post-surgical care. After the procedure, patients wait for 30 days to heal. Then they return to their physician, who activates the device. Once activated, patients can use a hand-held remote control to turn the device on before they go to sleep each night. They can also pause and turn it off in the morning. The battery pack is designed to last 7 to 10 years, much like a pacemaker.

Why choose Christiana Care?

We provide expert care in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with the upper airway stimulation therapy. Our board-certified surgeons have the experience and skill to complete your procedure and get you back to your day-to-day activities in no time. We partner with you – before, during and after surgery – on your journey back to restful sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does the stimulation feel like?

You should feel a mild sensation from the stimulation. Typically, patients feel a tingling sensation or mild contraction in their tongue muscles. The stimulation should not be painful or uncomfortable and the level is adjustable. Your therapy-trained doctor will make any adjustments as needed.

Am I still a candidate for upper airway stimulation therapy if I have a pacemaker or other implantable device?

Having a pacemaker or other implantable device does not disqualify you from becoming a candidate for upper airway stimulation therapy. Your doctor will evaluate your sleep apnea history and overall health, including heart health, before deciding if this therapy is right for you.

Will upper airway stimulation therapy help with snoring?

Data from clinical trial showed that 85% of bed partners reported either no snoring or soft snoring by their partners.

What is recovery like after the surgery?

Recovery time after surgery will vary from patient to patient, most patients experience minimal pain and swelling at the small incision sites for a few days after the implant. Although up to your physicians, most patients are able to go home the same day of your procedure.

Within a few days following the procedure, you should be able to return to normal non-strenuous activities. You should avoid strenuous activities for about two weeks or as directed by your doctor. A week after surgery, your doctor will examine you to make sure you are healing properly. Most patients have a full recovery within a couple of weeks.

Additional questions? Please call one of our physicians.