BETHLEHEM, Pa. – It’s something 30 million Americans deal with, according to the American Medical Association: obstructive sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing while you sleep, and lead to even greater health problems, if not treated.
Doctors at St. Luke’s have had success with a procedure that can help you breathe, and sleep, easier, without the CPAP machine.
“Sleep apnea is a problem with your body not being able to adequately breathe while you’re sleeping,” Dr. Jarrod Keeler said.
Keeler serves as Chief of Surgery at St. Luke’s in Allentown and Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Bethlehem.
Keeler says CPAPs, commonly used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, have come a long way since the 80s.
“They’re far more comfortable and far easier to wear,” he said.
Even so: “They’re still fairly uncomfortable for a certain percentage of patients.”
Enter Inspire, a nerve stimulator. It uses the nerve that moves your tongue to keep the tongue out of the airway every time you take a breath.
“And so it senses your breathing, each time that you take a breath, then the device moves the tongue out of the airway,” Keeler said.
Dr. Keeler says it’s minimally invasive.
“Go home the same day, two small incisions, one underneath the chin here, and another in the chest.”
You turn it on before you go to sleep with a remote. You’ll feel a small tug on the tongue and hear a beep.
“A small little muscle spasm very, very brief,” Keeler said.
It’s been FDA approved since 2014. But recently off their 100th implant, the doctors submitted an article to a peer-reviewed medical journal, to tout its effectiveness.
“We’ve had excellent results, both with the patient’s sleep apnea improving,” Keeler said. “We’ve also had great results with both their blood pressure, and even some patients improving their diabetes along with this.”
Dr. Keeler says of the 30,000 procedures done since 2016, just a handful of devices – less than 0.02 – had to be removed because of infection.
The doctor adds insurances make fairly stringent requirements, but most insurances within the Lehigh Valley do accept it. And once it’s recommended, a second referral from the sleep team is required.
If you think you may struggle with sleep apnea, Keeler says the first step would be to reach out to your primary care provider. You can also reach out to St. Luke’s Sleep Centers, where you can be evalauated with a sleep study, or to Specialty Physician Associates.