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News & Announcements

Saint Vincent Hospital Offers Implantable Device Procedure for Sleep Apnea as Alternative Therapy for Some Patients Unable to Tolerate CPAP

Aug 22, 2022

WORCESTER, Mass. – August 22, 2022 – Saint Vincent Hospital now offers a new implantable device as an alternative treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who are unable to tolerate sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

The FDA-approved device, a stimulator made by Inspire Medical Systems, is implanted in the OSA patient’s chest under general anesthesia during an outpatient surgical procedure. The surgery requires two small incisions – one in the patient’s chest where the battery is placed, the other in their throat for the stimulator lead. The device emits a mild electrical pulse that stimulates the patient’s tongue muscle, opening their airway during sleep and allowing them to breathe. The patient controls the device via a hand-held remote.

“Everyone knows the importance of a good night’s sleep to our overall health, and we are thrilled to be able to give our patients with sleep apnea another treatment option,” said Chief Executive Officer of Saint Vincent Hospital, Carolyn Jackson. “We are always looking for new ways to enhance the lives of our community members and we are excited to offer the Inspire device for those unable to utilize a CPAP machine.”

OSA is a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that causes people to repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. In addition to causing sleep deprivation, OSA is linked to potentially fatal chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and depression. The most common treatment for OSA is the use of a CPAP machine at night. The machine, which is placed by the bedside, emits a steady stream of air to keep the patient’s airway open so they can continue to breathe while sleeping. The patient wears a mask attached to the machine by a hose. Some patients find wearing the mask uncomfortable and claustrophobic, leaving them unable to tolerate CPAP therapy.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 20% of people in the US experience at least mild symptoms of sleep apnea, with 1 in 15 people experiencing moderate to severe symptoms.

“For patients who qualify for the implantable device procedure, this is looked upon as life-changing surgery,” said Jason Kass, MD, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon affiliated with Saint Vincent Hospital. “Having sleep apnea is exhausting. Essentially, the condition causes the person with sleep apnea to run a marathon every night. It stresses their body, raises their heart rate, causes fragmented sleep, and can have a significant detrimental effect on their quality of life.”

Natalie Sperling, a 53-year-old Worcester nurse, was diagnosed with OSA approximately five years ago. She tried sleeping with a CPAP machine but was unable to tolerate it. “It just wasn’t for me,” she said. “I found it impossible to sleep being hooked up to the machine and having to wear the mask.”

Dr. Kass performed the Inspire procedure on Sperling in April. “Now, I’m having the best sleep of my life!” Sperling said. “I’m breathing better and feeling better. Sleep apnea was making me miserable. I’d wake up at night gasping for air. It was disrupting not just my sleep, but my husband’s sleep as well. Now, I feel more secure. I can go to sleep at night knowing I’m going to wake up in the morning. I’m no longer tired every day and I have more energy.”

Sperling has nothing but praise for Dr. Kass and her Saint Vincent Hospital care team. “From the minute I walked in, Dr. Kass was amazing. He was so thorough and patient and answered all my questions. I was treated very well at Saint Vincent. I had a very good experience there. I would recommend the procedure 100%. I’d do it a million times over!”

According to Dr. Kass, to qualify for the Inspire procedure, patients must have been diagnosed with moderate to severe OSA, be unable to tolerate CPAP therapy, have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 32, and have undergone a favorable airway exam. A follow-up procedure is required every 11 years to change the battery.

For more information about the Inspire procedure at Saint Vincent Hospital, go to www.StVincentHospital.com.