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Health Spotlight: New device brings life-changing sleep for sleep apnea patients

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sleep apnea, which is the ceasing or struggling to breathe while asleep, is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease and even lung damage.

A C-PAP machine is routinely prescribed to keep continuous airflow through the lungs, but they are bulky, noisy, and claustrophobic.

But now, there is a tiny, implantable device placed into the chest, and according to some users, it’s been a lifesaver.

Roger Schwalm is 1 of 6 million people who strap into a C-PAP machine just to breathe while they’re asleep. “It only lets me sleep really good, in most cases, maybe 3, 4 hours a night, and then it gets so painful, I have to take it off,” Schwalm says.

When patients fail to use their C-PAPs, apnea can lead to pulmonary hypertension, decreased concentration, fatigue, and even non-alcoholic liver disease.

Now, some users are trying an implantable device called Inspire for alternative treatment.

Dr. Joshua Dunklebarger, a head and neck surgeon with WellSpan Health in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, says the device unshackles patients from being stuck in bed, and explains that the device includes a battery pack, which is implanted between the second and third rib on the right side of the chest.

After the device is implanted, two attached wires – one in the chest and one in the neck – sense and trigger the breathing response. Once implanted, the device remains for 12 years before the battery pack is replaced.

Some insurance companies will pay for both C-PAP equipment and the Inspire device, which is another benefit as both devices cost thousands of dollars each.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.