New Technology Relieves Severe Sleep Problem

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Jill Chadwick

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Jerry Maxwell suffered from chronic fatigue and the occasional foggy head which made his daily grind all that much harder.  He had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and knew his symptoms were related to a poor night's sleep.  The conventional solutions didn't work for him.  "I didn't tolerate my c-pap mask," Maxwell said.

It was a story he saw on social media that led him to The University of Kansas Health System and Dr. Chris Larsen, MD, ENT surgeon. "Jerry was a great candidate for a recently approved FDA device to surgically help with sleep apnea," Dr. Larsen said. "The device called Inspire works to stimulate the hyposglossal nerve to thrust the tongue forward to allow air to flow."

Sleep apnea patients must stop breathing more than 30 times per hour while sleeping to qualify for the medical device.  It looks like a pacemaker inserted under the skin with tiny wires the doctor surgically connects to the hypoglossal nerve. Patients undergo a sleep study first to learn the number of episodes where they stop breathing. Snoring can be a symptom, but Maxwell described his snoring as light.  Maxwell is the 35th patient to undergo the surgery for his sleep apnea at the Health System.  

"Patients who undergo the surgery have reduced their episodes of not breathing from 38 times a night to an average of five times a night," Dr. Larsen said.  "This is a potentially life-saving surgery as sleep apnea presents a real danger of stroke and other serious medical conditions."

In the video, Dr. Larsen explains more about the dangers of sleep apnea and how the implant works. Maxwell talks about his symptoms and how he learned about the surgical solution. Broll follows Maxwell from his hospital bed in pre-surgery to the operating room.