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No-Mask Sleep Apnea Therapy: 'Inspire is a Safe Outpatient Procedure'

If you have moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and can’t tolerate or aren’t getting any benefit from your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) pump, Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation may be the solution for you. Inspire is a minimally invasive surgical alternative. An implanted device is used to monitor your breathing and keep your airways open while you sleep.

Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons Mark Hunter, MD, and Angela Paddack, MD, in their lecture “Advanced Treatment for Sleep Apnea,” shared OSA treatment advances. In particular they highlighted Inspire therapy.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Dr. Hunter explained, “OSA occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat, mainly the tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax while we’re sleeping. This results in narrowed or even closed airways, causing us to repeatedly stop breathing for brief moments while we sleep.” He went on to say, “If left untreated, OSA decreases our life expectancy and increases our risk for serious conditions, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, artery disease, dementia and type 2 diabetes.”


VIDEO: Watch the online lecture on "Advanced Treatment for Sleep Apnea"


About Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Therapy

Dr. Angela Paddack then described current treatment options.

“The CPAP pump has long been the gold standard for OSA treatment. When used as prescribed, patients experience better rest,” she said. “But for many, the CPAP mask and device aren’t comfortable. It’s estimated that 50% of people aren’t using it as prescribed and, as a result, aren’t getting the true benefit of the therapy.”

Other therapies for sleep apnea include:

  • Oral therapies such as the mandibular repositioning mouthpiece to pull your jaw forward. “This is similar to the Inspire therapy. However, the mandibular device can lead to pain and temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ,” said Dr. Paddack.
  • There are surgeries, including anatomy altering surgeries that remove parts of the jaw, tongue or throat, that both doctors Paddack and Hunter perform. Dr. Paddack explained, “All of these have the common goal of creating a wider airway to allow you to breathe more easily as you sleep.” However, you may need to continue using CPAP, even when surgery successfully reduces the severity of sleep apnea.

How Inspire Works

Inspire is a mask-free alternative. It uses an implantable device (similar to a pacemaker) to monitor every breath you take and, based on your unique breathing patterns, it delivers mild stimulation to a nerve that controls muscles at the back of your throat. By stimulating these muscles, the system keeps your airway open during sleep. With a handheld remote, you turn the device on before bed and off when you wake up.

What You Can Expect With Inspire

If you meet eligibility requirements, your physician will confirm that Inspire therapy is right for you.

"Inspire is a safe outpatient procedure," Dr. Hunter explained. "Three small incisions are made: one under the jawline, one at the upper chest and one at the lower chest. A sensor is placed by the ribs that signals the battery pack on the upper chest to open the airway while sleeping.”

About a month after the procedure is performed patients are back to all of their normal activities. “The battery,” said Dr. Hunter, “may need to be replaced after about 10 or 11 years. This is a simple procedure.”

As a clinically proven therapy, most insurance providers cover the procedure, including Medicare.

Statistics and Satisfaction

Inspire therapy is very successful. As of October 2020, there have been more than 100 peer-reviewed publications on Inspire therapy. These publications show that patients using Inspire therapy experience significant benefits:

  • 79% reduction in sleep apnea events, resulting in a healthier, restful night’s sleep
  • 94% of people are satisfied with Inspire
  • 96% of patients say Inspire is better than CPAP and would recommend Inspire to others
  • Improved daytime functioning from better sleep

“Nationally, we know that people tolerate CPAP 50% of the time. With Inspire, we are seeing a satisfaction rate of 94%," according to Dr. Paddack. "There’s no uncomfortable mask, and they can sleep in different positions."

In addition, a five-year clinical trial asked about the snoring of bed partners with OSA. Before Inspire, 83% of bed partners reported snoring. After Inspire, only 10% reported snoring; and, 90% reported some to no snoring at all.

“The result is people are getting a much greater benefit with the Inspire," added Dr. Hunter.

To request an appointment with either Mark Hunter, MD, or Angela Paddack, MD, call (720) 445-8179.

Click here to view/download slides shown during their lecture on "Advanced Treatment for Sleep Apnea."