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New Therapies Help Sleep Apnea Patients Breathe Easier

As part of its commitment to medical innovation, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health is offering two new groundbreaking treatments for sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous interruption of breathing that affects the health and wellbeing of more than 18 million Americans.

One of the treatments is a first in the state of Michigan: a breakthrough procedure for central sleep apnea (CSA), a disorder where the brain fails to signal breathing muscles during sleep.

The Respicardia remedē® System is designed to restore that signal. An implantable therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the remedē System monitors and stabilizes the breathing pattern throughout the night. It works by stimulating a nerve that controls the diaphragm, just as the brain does.

“This is an exciting development,” said Dr. Matthew Sevensma, who performed the state’s first remedē procedure on August 1 at Metro Health. “As a cardiologist, I’ve seen the connection between heart disease and sleep apnea. This is an innovative way to address risk factors, reduce daytime drowsiness and improve overall quality of life.”

Following a referral by Metro Health pulmonologist Dr. Timothy Daum, Sevensma implanted the device during a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. The device is activated 30 days later. In a clinical study, 91 percent of CSA patients saw a reduction in the number of sleep apnea events.

The National Institutes of Health notes untreated sleep apnea can contribute to serious conditions, such as heart attack, glaucoma, diabetes, cancer and cognitive and behavioral disorders.

Patients who suspect they have sleep apnea should talk to their doctors. Common symptoms include snoring, gasping during sleep, frequent waking, excessive daytime sleepiness, decreased attention, dry mouth or headaches when waking.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – different from CSA because it occurs when the airway collapses during sleep. This disorder often is treated by use of the mask-and-hose system commonly called CPAP – an acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.

As an alternative for patients unable or unwilling to use the CPAP devices, Metro Health now offers Inspire® Upper Airway Stimulation.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to offer therapies for both obstructive and central sleep apnea that do not involved wearing a mask,” said Daum. “Patients have been asking for these options for years and we are now able to offer them effective and safe alternatives.”

The Inspire system is an FDA-approved implantable device that uses mild stimulation to keep the airway open. It is inserted under the skin during an outpatient procedure, and patients use a small handheld remote to turn it on before bed.

Metro Health is able to offer this option through its affiliation with Michigan Medicine. Suitable candidates will be referred to ENT-otolaryngologist, Dr. Matthew Spector, for the procedure.

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joseph.weller@metrogr.org