Electric Shock That Switches Off Snoring

By on June 10, 2011

Snoring TreatmentA throat implant is the latest treatment for a common snoring condition.

The device uses electrical stimulation to activate nerves in the throat, forcing the muscles to keep the airways open.

In a small study, all the patients given the treatment for sleep apnoea showed considerable improvement in snoring and other symptoms.

Sleep apnoea occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Obstructive sleep apnoea, the most common type, is caused by a narrowing of the airways. During sleep, the throat or upper airways relax, resulting in the collapsed tissue reducing the airway.

When the air is completely cut off, the brain sends an emergency signal to the airway muscles to contract. This reopens the airway, allowing the patient to inhale – resulting in snoring.

However, when the patient falls asleep again, the tongue and soft tissue relax and the process is repeated.

Sufferers can wake up feeling exhausted – which can put them at risk when driving.

Left untreated, the condition can also increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

One of the most effective treatments is continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). The patient wears a mask that keeps the airways open by continuously pumping air into them.

However, the masks are often tight and uncomfortable, so up to 60 percent of sufferers do not continue with the treatment.

The condition can also be treated surgically, with nasal airway surgery, palate implants and tongue reduction. However, a new treatment offers a less painful and quicker alternative.

Exactly why the upper airways collapse in sleep apnoea is still not fully understood. However, studies have shown a clear decline in muscular “strength” in the throats of patients.

This has led to the idea that stimulating the upper airway muscles may help to keep them open. A sensor is implanted under the skin of the neck, this is connected to a tiny electrode placed in contact with the main nerve under the tongue.

The device is powered by a generator which is implanted under the skin of the chest.

The sensor is programmed to detect pressure changes in the airway. When this happens, the electrode fires pulses to the nerve, which in turn activates the muscle, pushing the airway open. Patients feel no pain. The generator, which can be switched on and off for sleep using a remote control, may need replacing every ten years or so, much like a pacemaker.

Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the US and other centres in Europe included eight patients. Results showed the number of sleep apnoea episodes was reduced by more than half.

* “Most people with obstructive sleep apnoea are overweight,” explains Andrew McCombe, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Frimley Park Hospital and spokesman for ENT UK.

“The first and most useful thing they can do is lose weight – not only to improve their sleep apnoea condition, but also for the general health benefits this will provide. CPAP is an excellent treatment if this is not possible.

“This procedure seems fairly straightforward. Like many of these things it is interesting and may lead to other ideas and developments.’ – Daily Mail

Source: IOL

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