Pacemaker-like device used to cure sleep apnea

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Roughly 25 million adults in the U.S have sleep apnea. That’s when you stop breathing while you sleep. Many may turn to the CPAP machine to solve the problem.

But there is now a new option available for some patients here in the Salt Lake Valley. It’s outpatient surgery that involves implanting a nerve stimulator using a pacemaker-like device called Inspire.

Theresa Schubach of Cottonwood Heights had severe obstructive sleep apnea.

“I was in very bad shape. I had no memory. I was confused. I stopped breathing 60 times an hour,” said Schubach. 

That’s once every minute.

Her condition affected her mood and cognitive abilities. 

“The condition is like your dying, I feel like I can’t take another breath because you’re so exhausted.”

Sleep apnea can also lead to long term health problems.  

“High blood pressure, heart failure stroke diabetes,” said Dr. Kevin Wilson. 

Like many people, Theresa couldn’t tolerate the CPAP machine which is often the first line of treatment.

Theresa, “I would wake up and the CPAP mask would be across the room,” said Schubach. 

Theresa became the first patient in the Salt Lake Valley to get a nerve stimulated device with a pacemaker surgically inserted. It’s called Inspire Therapy and it was FDA approved 5 years ago.

ENT Specialist Dr. Kevin Wilson was Theresa’s surgeon.
“There are 3 parts. There’s a sensor part that sits between the ribs and the chest wall that senses the breathing pattern. There’s the generator that drives the process and then the stimulator lead that hooks on to the hypoglossal nerve that moves the tongue,” said Dr. Wilson. 

Inspire is not for everyone but for Theresa, she’s now getting a full night sleep.

“I feel better because I can think.”

Dr. Wilson at Lone Peak Hospital has done 6 of these surgeries since December and now has 40 in the pipeline which gives you an idea of the demand out there as word gets out.

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