Saturday, September 18, 2004

New Option for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Restore Medical is a company in St. Paul, MN, that has introduced a new treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It is a simple, minimally-invasive, surgical procedure that can be done in the doctor's office.

OSA is a condition that results in temporary cessation of breathing during sleep. It disrupted the quality of sleep, such that daytime somnolence occurs. This has many adverse effects on health, and can lead to significant impairment of function. There are approximately 15 million affected patients in the USA, although it is likely that it is underdiagnosed.

The most common treatment is implemented by having the patient wear a mask at night, connected to a little pump that provides pressurized air. the increased pressure keeps the airway open. This does not cure the problem, but it effectively eliminates it by restoring quality of sleep. Some patients are not able, or not willing, to learn to sleep with the mask.

Various surgical options are available, but in general, they are not the preferred treatments. This is due to the frequency of complications that can arise from the surgery. Because of the fact that minimally-invasive surgery has a much lower rate of complications, any development in this area is noteworthy.

The Pillar Procedure is such a development. It involves the implantation of three polyethylene terephthalate (the same stuff used to make soda bottles) pillars to stiffen the soft palate. The pillars make it less likely that the soft palate will fall into the back of the throat when inspiratory effort creates a partial vacuum during inhalation. Of course, this will help only those patients whose apnea is caused by that particular anatomical problem.

Even so, a simple, safe procedure is welcome, even if it can be used only for a subset of patients.