Once simply called the Anti-Snoring Device, the implant now carries a more alliterative label: the Pillar Palatal Implant System.
The snoring treatment uses a special device to shoot three of the small implants into a snorer's soft palate near the point where it meets the hard palate. The implants themselves are polyester braids about three-quarters of an inch long and six one-hundredths of an inch in diameter.
The idea is to reduce the movement or vibration of the soft palate by increasing its stiffness with the implants. Soft palate movement, or "palatal flutter," is the major cause of snoring. (Try making a snoring sound as you inhale through your mouth. You'll feel your palate flutter.)
In a study partially funded by device maker Restore Medical Inc., Joachim T. Maurer, MD, and colleagues at Mannheim University Hospital, Germany, tested the implants on 15 heavy snorers.
The procedure went well, the researchers report. Only local anesthetic was needed. "Patients described feeling as if they had a minor sore throat" for two days, they note.
Two of the implants partially stuck out after 30 days, but they didn't cause a big problem and were removed without incident. Removal of the extruding implants did not cause a worsening of the snoring. The researchers say that scarring of tissue from the procedure may explain some of the device's benefits.
Two weeks after implantation, the snorers' partners reported improvement. Before treatment, the snorers' partners had to flee the bedroom more than six nights a week. After treatment, they slept away only three nights a week.
Three months after the implantation, one patient's snoring was completely gone. Nine of the partners reported only "soft, light, and occasional" snoring, while five said the snoring could be "heard in the adjacent room." Even so, both the snorers and their partners reported significant improvement.
A recording device found only a relatively small decrease in snoring sounds per hour. But the partners said the sound of the snoring was better after implantation.
"The bed partners remained satisfied in our study," Maurer and colleagues note.
The findings appear in the January issue of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery.