Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Inspire — A new alternative to using CPAP machines



Carol Goodman Heizer is an author who moved to Hood County from Louisville, Kentucky in 2019. She has had short stories and articles published in six editions of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. Her column for the Hood County News will appear every two weeks. She was a public school teacher for 17 years, earlier in her professional career.


Last week’s column dealt with the issue of sleep apnea and the use of CPAP machines for treating that condition. That has been the standard treatment for those individuals suffering from sleep apnea.

While some individuals have found the CPAP machines to be effective and convenient, others have experienced some difficulty with the standard equipment. Those individuals include the following: those who require nighttime trips to the bathroom, thus necessitating removal and replacement of the mask and tubing; those who have especially sensitive skin that breaks down after long wear; and those who suffer from claustrophobia and feel smothered or panicky while covered with the mask – regardless of the mask’s size.

Another matter of concern with CPAP machines for some users is the scheduled cleaning or replacement of all the CPAP equipment. Failure to do so can result in respiratory problems resulting from inhaling contaminated air from filters, tubing, and masks.

However, there is now a new treatment available – the Inspire implanted device (whose battery is designed to last approximately 11 years) is similar in operating principle to a pacemaker. Inspire’s full technical name is Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulator Implant. When the user stops breathing, the device applies gentle stimulation to key airway muscles during sleep, thereby allowing breathing and sleeping to resume.

Sleep apnea is a condition to be taken seriously, as it can result in major health issues – in addition to the resulting daily drowsiness caused by nightly sleep interruptions – and even death. Due to this implant requiring a surgical procedure, one must qualify for Inspire. However, the qualification process is well worth the time and effort it takes. Much of this column’s information has been taken from the brochure I was given, along with additional information from Texas Health Care before my procedure.

You may qualify for Inspire if: you are over the age of 18 according to one source and over the age of 22 according to another source; you have moderate to severe sleep apnea; you are unable to have consistent benefit from CPAP; you are not significantly obese. Most U.S. insurance covers this device once qualifications are met. The device is placed under the skin of the chest during a short, out-patient procedure. 

After healing from the procedure takes place – usually four to six weeks – the device is activated, and you are ready to begin sleeping normally without the use of typical CPAP equipment. Before going to sleep at night, the user activates the device via a remote, and then turns it off again in the morning.

Once the device is turned on, some patients may experience discomfort from stimulation, tongue discomfort, mouth dryness, or discomfort from the device’s presence. The majority of these events and/or discomfort are resolved either on their own, with medication, or by adjusting the therapy settings.

Users will need a new sleep study two to three months after activation to ensure the implant is working properly.

As with any surgical procedure, pre-operative and post-operative instructions are given and should be heeded to the fullest extent to allow for the best possible outcome.  There are two additional instructions you may receive to ensure the device does not move after surgery – do not raise your arm higher than your shoulder, and no heavy lifting for two weeks. However, many consider that a miniscule inconvenience – especially considering the benefits.

The FDA approved Inspire in 2014, and it has been tested in multiple clinical studies. While this approval may lend a sense of security in using Inspire, only you as the patient and your doctor can decide what is best for your current situation. 

NOTE: As with any medical situation, always consult your physician for any information and/or procedural qualifications. Many pulmonologists are aware of Inspire, while some primary care physicians may not be familiar with it.