South Texas Health System Edinburg Becomes First Facility in South Texas to Perform Inspire Therapy Procedure for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Thursday, October 19, 2023
A woman sleeping peacefully

Getting a good night’s sleep is as important as being physically active and watching what you eat, according to health experts. Quality sleep helps improve your brain performance, mood and overall health, while not getting proper rest regularly raises one’s risk of a number of diseases and disorders.

Unfortunately, about 30 million people in the United States are afflicted with sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing while you’re sleeping, according to the American Medical Association. The potentially serious disorder can cause daytime fatigue, high blood pressure or heart problems, as well as increase one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, complications with medicine and surgery, liver problems, depression, anxiety and vehicle accidents, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can even lead to relationship problems by affecting the sleep of one’s bed partner.

Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation

Inspire sleep apnea deviceTo help provide relief to South Texas residents struggling to get a good night's sleep because of the condition, South Texas Health System Edinburg became the first hospital south of San Antonio to perform an innovative treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, known as the Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation. Considered a breakthrough in the treatment of sleep apnea, the FDA-approved procedure aims to treat obstructive sleep apnea – the most common type of sleep apnea – which occurs when throat muscles relax and block the flow of air into the lungs. It consists of an implanted system that 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.

The procedure, which typically takes two to three hours, consists of two small incisions: one in the upper right chest where a small device is inserted; and one just under the chin where the hypoglossal nerve is located. “This new Inspire device is amazing,” said Dr. Frank R. Glatz, an ear, nose and throat specialist who performed the Inspire procedure at STHS Edinburg on Wednesday. “Seeing the results and seeing how easy these implants are, I think this could be a game-changer for a lot of people with sleep apnea, especially for people who are using a CPAP device and are tired of it.”

A CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure device, is the first and most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It works using a mask and hose to blow pressurized air into your airway to keep it from closing. However, many people are unable to benefit from a CPAP or a BiPAP, which is a bilevel positive airway pressure. Some report that the mask doesn’t fit well or is uncomfortable, while others with nasal or sinus structure abnormalities like a deviated septum, swollen turbinates or problems with the upper palate find it impossible to use a CPAP, according to health experts.

The Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014 but it wasn’t covered by most insurance providers until 2019, leading to the procedure count more than doubling in the United States in the last four years. To date, there have been more than 50,000 Inspire procedures performed in the U.S.

“I’m excited to bring this innovative solution to obstructive sleep apnea to the people of the Rio Grande Valley since there are so many people in the region who could benefit from it,” Glatz said. “We spend about a third of our life asleep, so it’s critical that the quality of our sleep be good. This procedure is bound to help many people not only get a good night’s rest, but it will help improve their overall health while decreasing their risk of serious sleep deprivation-related health complications.”

The National Institutes of Health reports that up to 80% of adults with obstructive sleep apnea don’t have a formal diagnosis, leading to unnecessary complications. “I see it every day in my office, people coming in reporting problems sleeping, not realizing they’re dealing with a more serious issue that’s reducing their blood oxygen levels for extended periods of time” said Glatz. “Sleep apnea is a major health concern. If you have heart disease, multiple episodes of low blood oxygen can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat.”

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The symptoms of sleep apnea can be hard to spot but some include feeling tired or exhausted when waking up, daytime sleepiness, snoring, mood changes, disruptions in brain function and waking up repeatedly in the middle of the night. Other people may notice pauses in their breathing while sleeping, unusual breathing patterns, insomnia, night sweats or restlessness at night, sexual dysfunction, headaches and waking up short of breath or like you’re choking, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It is most common among men for people under 50 years old, though it affects men and women equally among people older than 50.

While getting older increases the chances of developing sleep apnea, excess weight also strongly increases the risk for sleep apnea. It is also more common among people who take opioid pain medications and people with a heart condition such as atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure.

Get a Sleep Study at STHS Edinburg

For Rio Grande Valley residents who are having trouble getting a good night’s rest, Dr. Glatz recommends getting a sleep study to help diagnose and treat the problem. You can take the first step toward improving your sleep at the South Texas Health System Sleep Center.

To schedule a sleep study consultation, call 956-213-0403.

If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, speak with your doctor about the risks, benefits and expectations associated with the Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can search for one online.