New experimental device may silence snoring, ensure good night's sleep

September 5, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Barb Stellwagen now has the energy she needs to enjoy her busy life, keeping up with her family, church and charity organizations. The reason? She was willing to lay her cards down on an experimental treatment for snoring.

"I thought why not, I've tried everything else. I would really like to find a solution to get this taken care of, not just live with it," said Barb Stellwagen, patient.

This pacemaker-style device implanted underneath the tongue seems to be zapping her snoring problem away.

The device is activated at bedtime. A small electrode embedded under the tongue sends a slight electrical signal to the muscles, keeping them stimulated and toned.

This prevents the tongue from falling back and blocking the airway.

"It doesn't bother me at all, it's a little buzzing and tightness in the back of my throat," said Stellwagen.

Stellwagen suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Aside from causing daytime sleepiness, it may contribute to other health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

One of the main culprits behind OSA can be tongue position. This experimental technology is not yet approved by the FDA but is being tested at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago.

"If we can keep the tongue in an awake state and keep it from falling back, we can essentially prevent any obstruction and prevent snoring and prevent sleep apnea," said Dr. Michael Friedman, Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital.

The surgery is considered minor, but this does require having an electrode and small battery with a thin wire implanted under the skin. A remote turns the device on and off.

"This is exciting in terms of research because it's the first time we can control the position of the tongue without removing or changing the anatomy of the patient," said Dr. Friedman.

Still, it seems like a fairly drastic step to take. But Stellwagen has tried just about every treatment out there. And like many others, she had a very hard time using a CPAP machine which is considered the gold standard. She's been in the trial since April and says her sleep has improved dramatically.

"Amazing thing for me and my family. I feel like i can give more to them and be there for them if I'm getting a good night's sleep," said Stellwagen.

The clinical trial, sponsored by the manufacturer, is taking place at four locations across the country including Chicago. Once the research is in, the Food and Drug Administration will consider whether the device should be made available to the public.

For additional information:
Advocate Health
Ear, Nose & Thoat
800-3-ADVOCATE (800-323-8622)

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