HEALTHBEAT 4: Sioux City doctor offers implantable device to treat obstructive sleep apnea

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 9:33 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure. All three are long-term impacts of untreated obstructive sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep.

One of the most popular treatments is called C-PAP, which stands for “continuous positive airway pressure”. It delivers pressurized air through tubing into a mask that you wear while you sleep.

But, not everyone benefits from C-PAP. In those cases, patients could benefit from an implantable device now offered in Sioux City.

Miserable. That how David Cole describes his life before he got Inspire, which is an implantable sleep apnea treatment that works inside your body. “I couldn’t sleep at night,” said Cole. “I had the C-PAP machine. It would always wake me up all night long.” In fact, even with the C-PAP pushing air into his lungs to breathe he would still stop breathing. “About 56 times per hour,” said Cole.

Enter Inspire. It’s the only FDA approved implantable treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. “I think it changes their life,” said Dr. David Wagner, Wagner Ear, Nose & Throat. “I think it helps them feel better.” Dr. David Wagner, with Wagner Ear, Nose and Throat, performs the same-day procedure to implant Inspire devices. “The procedure involves an incision just under the jawline about five centimeters, and we dissect out the nerve and put a nerve-stimulating cuff on it,” said Wagner. “We tunnel a wire down to the other separate incision in the chest where we have the nerve generator. There’s a breath sensor in the chest wall. It’s a respirartory sensor we put against the muscle between the ribs, so it can feel that stretch, and then it will stimuate the tongue to stiffen and open that airway at the right time during that inspiration.” Wagner says pushing the tongue forward prevents the airway from closing, which, in sleep apnea patients, interrupts their breathing, and interrupts their sleep.

Cole uses a wireless remote to active Inspire when he gets ready for bed. “Once I get in bed, I push the little green button,” said Cole. “It kicks on. I can feel it kick my tongue out. And, about two seconds later, it kicks off.” When he wakes up in the morning, Cole clicks another button to turn the device off.

So, what’s Cole’s sleep like now? “I never wake up,” said David Cole, Inspire Patient. “Zero. It’s great!”

Not everyone with obstructive sleep apnea will qualify for Inspire. Start by talking to your family doctor. You can also call the sleep clinic at UnityPoint Health St. Luke’s at (712) 255-8827. Or, call Dr. Wagner’s office directly at (712) 234-8787. That’s where the screening process starts.