Inspire for Sleep Apnea: Say Goodbye to Your CPAP Machine

David Cuthbertson, MD

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CPAP machines are designed to help sleep apnea sufferers stop snoring, breathe more deeply, and get a good night’s sleep. That sounds pretty good!

And for many CPAP users, that’s how the story goes. Unfortunately, though, other patients with sleep apnea find CPAP machines difficult to use.

Transporting a CPAP machine can be inconvenient, particularly if you travel often. Sometimes the air that’s meant to help you breathe can dry out your eyes or fill up your stomach, leading to bloating and discomfort.

Some CPAP users develop a headache from having the mask strapped to their head too tightly. Others experience anxiety from wearing the CPAP mask, particularly those who suffer from claustrophobia. Some CPAP users even throw their mask on the floor without knowing it.

If you’re not a natural back-sleeper, changing your sleep position can be hard! And let’s face it; a mask and a loud machine don’t exactly set the stage for romance.

Inspire is the modern solution to sleep apnea for people who can’t tolerate a CPAP machine.

What Happens Physiologically During Sleep Apnea?

The vast majority of cases of sleep apnea are caused by an obstructed airway.

During the day, your muscles stay toned and you hold yourself upright. You can consciously compensate for any small airway blockage.

But at night when you’re reclined and sleeping, your muscles relax. Your tongue falls backwards and your tonsils fall inwards, and this can obstruct your airway. And since you’re asleep, you can’t consciously do anything to deal with this obstruction.

This is obstructive sleep apnea, which blocks the breath from entering your airway while you sleep.

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Oxygen Flow to the Lungs Is Restricted

The lungs function quite differently than any other organ in the body.

When another organ is low on oxygen, its blood vessels dilate (get wider) to allow more blood — and the oxygen it carries — to enter.

Lungs, on the other hand, function in the opposite way.

Normally, blood flows through your lungs to pick up oxygen and deliver it to the rest of your body. But when some part of your lungs doesn’t get enough oxygen, the blood vessels in that area constrict (clamp down) to reduce how much blood runs through. Your body attempts to shunt that blood to a different part of the lung in an attempt to pick up more oxygen.

This efficient system usually works incredibly well for the body. But sleep apnea throws a wrench in the works.

With sleep apnea, no part of your lung is receiving enough oxygen, so all the blood vessels in your lungs start clamping down! This forces your heart to work extra hard to force blood into an area that’s trying to keep blood out.

Over time, this “battle of the blood” can lead to serious complications like pulmonary hypertension and heart failure.

How Can Inspire for Sleep Apnea Help?

The key to treating sleep apnea is to remove the obstruction that’s blocking the airflow.

So when we find a visible blockage, like swelling, congestion or enlarged tonsils, we work to eliminate those blockages first. If needed, a CPAP machine combats sleep apnea by using forced air to blow past any obstructions in the airway.

Inspire, on the other hand, attempts to recreate your body’s natural sleep state. Inspire uses your body’s own musculature and nerve signals to restore functional tone to your airway at night. This mimics the way you breathe when you’re awake and upright.

Common Patient Concerns About Inspire

As with any surgery or medical procedure, patients may have understandable apprehensions about Inspire. Let’s address some of the more common concerns we hear in our ENT practice.

How Long Has Inspire Been on the Market?

Inspire was originally approved for patient use by the FDA in April 2014.

Does Inspire Actually Work?

While it’s impossible to know with complete certainty how a specific patient will react to a procedure, Inspire has a pretty impressive track record.

After a patient gets Inspire, 90% of bed partners report no snoring or only very light snoring. Patients experience a 79% reduction in episodes of sleep apnea each hour. And 94% of patients say they would recommend Inspire to their fellow snorers.

Are There Studies That Prove That Inspire Works?

Yes, studies show that Inspire is effective. The first study of Inspire began in 2010, and the one-year results of that study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. A five-year follow-up study was published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.

The ADHERE registry was originally established to follow Inspire patients after their surgery, both in the United States and abroad. This registry shows clinical data compatible with the studies mentioned above.

How Long Do the Effects of Inspire Last?

The battery inside the Inspire device lasts about 11 years, so your doctor will need to change it out about once a decade.

The battery change is a surgical procedure, but not as complex as the original placement. Other than this routine maintenance, Inspire works on its own to manage your sleep apnea indefinitely.

What’s the Surgery Like?

The surgery itself takes about two and a half hours. It’s an outpatient procedure, so you can expect to go home the same day. (You will need to have someone available to drive you home.)

Most patients are fully recovered within about a week after surgery.

Is There Anything Else I Should Know?

Your ENT doctor will take you through a process of informed consent, letting you know about all known risks and benefits of the Inspire procedure.

Inspire received full approval from the FDA in 2014, but it’s good to note that Inspire is not FDA-approved for an MRI of the chest or abdomen. It is approved for MRIs of the limbs and head.

Inspire at ENT Associates of Lubbock

At ENT Associates of Lubbock, we have successfully placed many Inspire devices for a wide variety of patients. The results have been the same for male and female, young and old, moderate cases to severe sleep apnea. Their quality of sleep — and life — has improved dramatically.

Whether you’re dealing with untreated sleep apnea or are tired of fighting with your CPAP machine at night, give us a call. Our ENT doctors can help you determine if Inspire is right for you!

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