(Not so) Fun Fact: The National Institutes of Health estimates that 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with many of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea going undiagnosed.
“Sleep apnea …affects not only the quality of our sleep but our health and well-being,” says Dr. Maurits Boon, M.D., Assistant Professor at Thomas Jefferson University; Associate Residency Director and Co-director of the Jefferson Voice and Swallowing Center. “For years, we had little to offer patients except continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and relatively poor surgical procedures. Newer and better procedures now exist and do a better job of improving the airway with less risk. ”
One such new procedure is Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS). This is an outpatient surgery where a small device similar in size and function to a pacemaker is implanted to the right side of the patient’s chest just under the collarbone. “The device is only turned on at night and it senses breathing, gently stimulating key airway muscles to open with each breath,” says Dr. Boon. “It has a half hour delay so that after it is turned on, patients can fall asleep without sensing the gentle stimulation.”
UAS is a good option for persons who suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea, including those who may have failed previous sleep surgery. “Sleep surgery has evolved over the last 15 years,” says Dr. Boon. “While it used to be the case that every patient was offered an operation called a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), newer procedures that ‘reconstruct’ the airway have been developed that produce better outcomes with lower side effects.”
A recent study in the journal SLEEP also shows long-term cost-effectiveness of UAS for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. “UAS represents the latest and one of the best options for many patients afflicted by this difficult disorder,” adds Dr. Boon.
If you’d like to learn more, join Dr. Boon and Dr. Karl Doghramji, Director of the Jefferson Sleep Disorders Center, in Voorhees, NJ on May 14th at 6pm for an informative session about UAS or call 1-800-JEFF-NOW for an appointment to discuss your options.