Sleep apnea is a disruptive sleep disorder that causes the airways to collapse, making it difficult to breathe during sleep. Though most cases of sleep apnea can be treated using a CPAP machine that provides continual air pressure, a few alternative treatments are finding their way into the market.
A robotic surgery was recently cleared as a safe and effective treatment for sleep apnea. The treatment involves the surgical removal of excess soft tissue in the mouth and throat. This tissue collapses during sleep, forcing the sleeper to wake up continually to breathe, which can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as chronic exhaustion.
The da Vinci Surgery System cuts soft tissue from the base of the tongue using high-definition 3D cameras to guide doctors through the procedures. The procedure, Transoral Robotic Surgery or TORS, has been around for years, but it was only cleared as a sleep apnea treatment last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This treatment may come as a blessing to patients who can’t seem to adjust to their CPAP machine, though most people just need time to get used to it.
“It is good that alternatives to airway obstruction and (SDB) sleep disordered breathing are continually being developed, however there is a reason that CPAP is still the gold standard in effectively treating (SDB),” says Mark Hixson, Chief Executive Officer, 1800CPAP. “CPAP, APAP , Bi-Level and Adapt SV machines are a cost effective way to treat all types of (SDB) without having to go under the knife. As always you should talk to your doctor about your treatment options.”
According to a local CBS affiliate in Fredericksburg, VA, a patient whose injured eye socket made it impossible to use a CPAP was able to be treated using a device similar to a pacemaker.
The device was placed underneath the skin on the right side of the patient’s chest and connected to a nerve in the throat. The device can essentially sense when the patient stops breathing in their sleep, at which point it sends a signal to the nerve in the throat that moves the tongue out of the way.
Sid Ghatak was the first patient to get the revolutionary implant at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The treatment is available to patients who can’t use CPAP machines but aren’t morbidly obese.