By Cristina Mestre
OSA is characterized by repeated episodes of upper airway collapse during sleep due to narrowing or blockage. This can cause patients to stop breathing during sleep. Repeated episodes of apnea can
lead to daytime fatigue, increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke,
high blood pressure and even death. Treatments include weight loss, upper
airway surgeries, oral appliances, and continuous
positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is considered the primary
treatment for OSA. But unfortunately, due to the discomfort with the CPAP
mask and having to be tethered to a machine, up to 50 percent of patients don’t
Q: What was your experience with sleep apnea before you started using
the Inspire device?
Patients who participated in the multicenter apnea study, led by Patrick Strollo, M.D., professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and medical director of the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center, all underwent
surgery to implant the device. The device stimulates the nerve of the tongue during
sleep, thereby enlarging and stabilizing the airway and improving control of
Here, we ask Al Friedl and Kathy
Gaberson, both part of the trial that tested the Inspire therapy, about their
experiences with OSA and with the new technology.
Al: I had a horrible sleeping experience. The
idea of sleeping through the night was non-existent, and when nighttime came I
was terrified. I finally heard about CPAP
and my experience was better, but not ideal – I never got used to the thing, and
had to wait until I was drop dead tired to use the machine. Some people like the snug effect of the
machine, but not me. I used it for 5 or
6 years, and then switched to using a simple mouth guard which provided the
same function but was a little more comfortable. But it
still wasn’t ideal.
I then found
out about the Inspire therapy through my brother, who had read an article about
the trial. I called and decided to check
it out, then heard from UPMC’s Ear Nose and Throat division and after a few
rounds of evaluation, the device was installed during surgery.
Kathy: After I was diagnosed with OSA in
2007, the only option for treatment was the CPAP. So I acquired the machine and started using
it even though it was not comfortable and not convenient – I didn’t like waking
up with a sore nose and indentations on my face. Still, I persisted and was very faithful in
using the equipment. But it was cumbersome since I traveled frequently for my
job and had to bring the CPAP device on the plane, since you can’t check it.
After five years of use, I was frustrated and found a new sleep medicine doctor
to talk about other possible treatment options, which is when I learned about
the Inspire device trial.
Q: What is life like now?
Al: After a few tweaks of getting the
stimulation “dosage” to be right for me, I feel so much better. I sleep through the night almost every night. There are only a few nights each month where I don’t sleep well, but I’m 83
so that’s pretty good!
Kathy: Once the device was turned on after a month of healing
post-surgery, I gradually felt better and better until we reached the ideal
settings for me. I noticed that the
quality of my sleep was much better than with the CPAP. I went from having 23 apnea events per hour
to just two. I also had a lot more
energy during the day. My short-term
memory improved, too, and it made a huge difference for my quality of life. The
memory problems were frustrating not just for me but also for people I worked
Labels: sleep, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC Sleep Medicine Center