Inspire Therapy: A New Option for Sleep Apnea Patients

Aug 2 2023

A new therapy is now offering hope to people who suffer from sleep apnea but don’t need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Inspire, a new procedure available at Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital, is a breakthrough implantable treatment option for select patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“For patients who have OSA and are unable to tolerate a CPAP machine, we now have an alternative therapy called Inspire,” Ankur Girdhar, MD, (pictured above) one of our sleep medicine and critical care pulmonologists, shares. “It is as effective as a CPAP, yet much easier to use.” 

Approved by the FDA in 2014, Inspire Therapy is a fully implanted neurostimulation device that senses breathing patterns and delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles. When someone is ready for bed, they simply click the remote to turn Inspire on. Then, while they are sleeping, Inspire monitors every breath they take. Based on unique breathing patterns, the system delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the movement of the tongue and other key airway muscles. By stimulating these muscles, the airway remains open during sleep.

“Instead of using a mask, the Inspire device stimulates the tongue directly to move away from the throat to treat sleep apnea,” Dr. Girdhar explains.  

An ideal candidate for Inspire Therapy is someone who has moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, has a BMI of less than 35 and has tried but failed CPAP therapy for at least three months.

“Treatment of sleep apnea, also known as the ‘silent killer,’ is imperative as this disease process is associated with many long-term complications including cardiac arrhythmia, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, fatigue and depression,” Nicholas Eberly, DO, one of our ENT providers, adds. 

There is a three-step process to determine if someone is a candidate for Inspire Therapy: assessment, implant procedure, followed up activation and titration.

A pulmonologist will order a sleep study and the ENT physician performs an endoscopy to determine if you are a candidate for Inspire. A sleep endoscopy is an outpatient procedure that lasts five to 10 minutes and has minimal recovery time.

Once approved by insurance, you will be scheduled for the implant surgery. The surgery typically takes a couple of hours to perform. Recovery times can vary, but most patients describe the recovery as easy and require minimal pain medication afterwards. 

Dr. Eberly, who specializes in otolaryngology as well as head and neck surgery, sees patients at Mercy Health — Fairfield Ears, Nose and Throat and performs surgery at Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital. As for Dr. Girdhar, he sees patients at Mercy Health — Fairfield Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care and specializes in pulmonology, sleep medicine as well as critical care.

Inspire therapy is also available at Mercy Health – Anderson Hospital! Laura Miller, DO, specializes in otolaryngology as well as head and neck surgery. She sees patients at Mercy Health — Anderson Ears, Nose and Throat and Mercy Health – Clermont Ears, Nose and Throat. Junaid Malik, MD, sees patients at Mercy Health — Anderson Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care and specializes in pulmonary critical care, pulmonology and sleep medicine.

Learn more about the ear, nose and throat services and well as the sleep medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.

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