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Health Spotlight: Implant under research could help apnea sufferers

Health Spotlight: Genio stops the sleep apnea snore

(WISH) — A device under research, touted as a slimmer and more natural alternative, could lend hope to people battling sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes the upper airway to collapse during sleep Obstructive sleep apnea impacts almost a billion people worldwide. About 40,000 die from it each year.

Breathing stops or slows, so patients use a bulky and noisy CPAP machine for relief.

Dr. David Kent is an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and director of sleep surgery at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Sleep apnea is also related to body weight. As body weight goes up, the throat gets increasingly collapsible at night, and it can become so collapsible that nothing else will help to keep it open besides a CPAP machine or significant weight loss.”

Some apnea sufferers are at normal weight but dislike claustrophobic CPAPs attached to long, bulky hoses.

New hope is coming from an implanted device called the Genio that is touted for stimulating the nerves that help with breathing.

Kent said, “We’re actually providing a gentle pulse to the tongue nerves while a patient is asleep overnight to open up the airway by moving the tongue forward to unblock the airway to keep their throat from blocking up and to help, potentially, keep them from snoring as well.”

A single incision under the chin is made, and the Genio is implanted inside and activated by the patient before bed.

There’s no implanted power source, so no battery changes are needed.

The Genio is under trails in a clinic at Vanderbilt, and researchers believe it will be available for the public in 12 to 18 months.

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