Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Sleep Apnea Health Center

Font Size

Implants Help Snorer's Sleep

Sleep Apnea Patients Also Benefit From New Treatment
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 22, 2005 -- A new approach to treating snoring and sleep apnea may finally give many patients what they long for most -- a good night's sleep.

There are a range of effective treatments for sleep apnea and snoring, but patients often find them unacceptable, either because they are uncomfortable or involve painful surgery.

The Pillar Palatal Implant, approved by the FDA for sleep apnea and snoring, was shown to be effective for both conditions in two new studies to be presented in Los Angeles next week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

"This is one of the more promising new treatments out there," says Dallas sleep medicine specialist Craig Schwimmer, MD, who did not participate in either of the studies.

"To me the biggest attraction to this is that it is an effective alternative to standard surgery," he tells WebMD.

The standard surgery involves removal of excess tissue at the back of the throat and soft palate, a procedure known as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). Patients who get the surgery face weeks of painful recovery and they don't always improve.

"This isn't a surgery that it is easy for patients to get excited about," Schwimmer says.

The New Sleep Apnea Treatment

Sleep apnea and loud persistent snoring are two of the most common sleep complaints. If left untreated sleep apnea can lead to major health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. People with the disorder often snore, but not all snorers have sleep apnea.

Both conditions are caused by partial airway collapse, often due to weakening of the muscles of the soft palate. Palate movement, or "palatal flutter," causes the vibration, which results in snoring.

The new treatment reduces the movement or vibration of the soft palate with implants designed to stiffen it. Using a special needle, three pieces of braided, polyester string about three-quarters of an inch long each are inserted into the soft palate near the point where it meets the hard palate.

Although considered a surgical procedure, implantation takes only about 10 minutes and it is done under local anesthesia in the physician's office.

"People with sleep apnea have no trouble breathing during the day," Loyola University Medical Center associate professor of otolaryngology Regina P. Walker, MD, tells WebMD.

"They have very good airway flow when they are sitting up and standing, and terrible airway when they are lying flat. What we do with this procedure is try to recreate the muscle tone that is compromised when patients lie down. Like when you suck something through a straw, the stiffer the straw, the less likely it is to collapse."

Patients and Partners See Improvement

In the sleep apnea study, Walker and colleagues followed 53 patients treated with the palatal implants at five centers around the country. At evaluation three months after implantation, roughly three-fourths of the patients' bed partners reported witnessing no evidence of sleep apnea.

Today on WebMD

Sleep Disorders What Are They
SLIDESHOW
Man sleeping on plane
SLIDESHOW
 
Sleep Fact or Fiction Test Yourself
QUIZ
Woman asleep with cpap mask on.
ARTICLE
 
Pet scan depression
VIDEO
Nighttime Heartburn
SLIDESHOW
 
Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
SLIDESHOW
Sleep Apnea Appliance
VIDEO
 
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
SLIDESHOW
Sleep Apnea Clues
FEATURE
 
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
SLIDESHOW
Breus Sleep Apnea
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections