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Inspire Technology: A New Option for Sleep Apnea Patients

Jul 25 2022

There is new hope for people who suffer from sleep apnea yet don’t get the relief they need from a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Inspire is a new procedure being offered at Mercy Health – Anderson Hospital. This therapy is a breakthrough implantable treatment option for those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“For a long time, the only effective treatment for OSA was CPAP therapy,” Junaid Malik, MD, (pictured above, right) one of our sleep medicine and critical care pulmonologist, shares. “But now, we have Inspire.”  

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. So, when someone is ready for bed, the individual simply clicks the remote to turn Inspire on. While they are sleeping, Inspire monitors every breath they take. Based on their 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.

“Simply put, Inspire Therapy is a device that stimulates your tongue to move out of the throat to stop your sleep apnea,” Dr. Malik explains.  

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

Laura Miller, DO, (pictured above, left) one of our ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, was critical in getting our Cincinnati pulmonologists and other ENT specialists ready for this Inspire Therapy roll-out. In fact, Dr. Miller worked closely with Dr. Malik to implement this technology and create an efficient process for patients.

“I am currently the only Mercy Health ENT performing the surgery, and Dr. Malik is the only pulmonologist programming the device,” Dr. Miller shares.

She continues, “treating sleep apnea is important because there are serious long-term complications associated with it, such as atrial fibrillation, increased risk of stroke, heart failure and high blood pressure.”

There is a three-step process for Inspire Therapy: assessment, implant procedure and then activation and titration.

The assessment step is to determine if someone is a candidate for Inspire.

“A pulmonologist will review your sleep study to determine if you are a candidate for Inspire,” Dr. Miller says. “We must also confirm that you are a candidate through a sleep endoscopy, as Inspire only works for patients who have the appropriate tongue and palate collapse.”

A sleep endoscopy is an outpatient procedure that lasts five to 10 minutes and does not have any recovery.

“After that procedure, we submit to your insurance company for approval,” Dr. Miller says. “Once approved, we will schedule you for the implant surgery. The surgery typically lasts less than two hours. Most patients take minimal pain medication afterwards and describe the recovery as easy.”

Dr. Miller 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.

As for Dr. Malik, he 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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