North Charleston, SC - The next time you lay on your back move your tongue to the back

of your mouth and try to breathe. It’s not easy. Don’t be surprised if you gag or gasp for breath. Imagine this happening more than 30 times every hour while you sleep every night for years. For patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) this is a common occurrence.

Dr. Eric Lentsch specializes in head and neck surgery. He’s a member of Head and Neck Specialists Charleston and on the medical staff at Trident Medical Center. He says OSA creates a high risk for life threatening and life altering conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and memory loss and shouldn’t ignored. “One of the misconceptions about OSA is that there isn’t an effective surgical treatment. That’s not correct . The newest option, which involves an outpatient procedure to implant a device called a hypoglossal nerve stimulator, has an approximately 90% success rate. Based on the comments I’ve heard from the more than 200 patients I’ve treated with the device it changes their life.”

The implanted device, which is FDA approved, is about the size of a pacemaker. It continuously monitors breathing patterns during sleep. Based on the patient’s unique breathing patterns the system delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve in the tongue and key airway muscles, which keeps the airway open at both the soft palate and tongue base. With an open airway fresh air can flow more freely to the lungs and a normal sleep pattern can resume.

Kiely St Germain is a nurse practitioner with Head and Neck Specialists Charleston and works closely with Dr. Lentsch and the patients who are candidates for the implanted hypoglossal nerve stimulator. She says, “I love seeing patients at their follow up appointment. They talk about how happy they are and how much energy they have.”

Dr. Lentsch added, “One of the common phrases I hear from patients after the device has been implanted is, ‘You saved my life .’”

Obstructive Sleep Apnea symptoms include:

  • Waking up suddenly and feeling like you’re gasping or choking
  • Regular fatigue or sleepiness

  • Snoring

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

If you have symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea talk with your primary care physician. A sleep study may be ordered. If Obstructive Sleep Apnea is diagnosed ask your physician about treatment options, including the implanted hypoglossal nerve stimulator.