More Americans are searching for alternatives to CPAP machines to treat their sleep apnea, but one Chicago man and his doctor are raving about a remote-controlled implant designed to help with the ailment in a unique way.
The Inspire device, approved by the FDA in 2014, is an implantable-device that can be controlled wirelessly for use while sleeping, and retired Chicago firefighter Dan Sheehan swears by it, saying he has gotten the best sleep he’s had in years.
“You push it, you hold it, and it’s on,” he said. “I wake up relaxed, and when you’ve got sleep apnea, you don’t wake up relaxed.”
Sheehan used to use a CPAP machine, but he called using it torture.
“The wire lead runs right up my neck,” he said.
Dr. Phillip Losavio, head of sleep surgery at RUSH, recommended the Inspire device to Sheehan.
“It’s an electronic device that gets implanted below the skin on the chest and it sends a signal to the nerves that control the back of the tongue and essentially contracts those muscles while you’re sleeping at night to prevent the throat from collapsing,” he said.
Losavio says that recent recalls of CPAP machines, which NBC 5 Responds has covered extensively, and global supply shortages have led patients to seek alternatives, and the Inspire device is one that he’s recommended to many.
“People have been unable to get their CPAP machines, so it definitely has brought greater awareness of other treatments that people are seeking out,” he said.
There are specific criteria for those eligible for the device, because it does require a two-hour outpatient surgery that involves two small incisions being made to implant.
Patients can use a device to turn the implant on and off, allowing them to sleep easier and for longer periods of time.
“It’s just so comfortable,” Sheehan said. “It’s a new innovation.”
Losavio says that treating sleep apnea is critically important for myriad reasons, and he hopes that more effective treatment options will encourage patients to evaluate whether they are dealing with the condition.
“For people with moderate-to-severe sleep apnea, not only does that make them feel terrible and make them snore, but they are also at elevated risk for heart attack and stroke,” he said.