Sleep Disorders

12 October 2017

Is this new treatment the cure for sleep apnoea?

A new implantable device that sends signals to the diaphragm is the latest treatment option for sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea is a breathing disorder accompanied by snoring. It can have a serious impact on health as a lack of oxygen is dangerous.

New treatment methods are being developed all the time and a promising new device was approved recently.

Signals to diaphragm

The Remede sleep system, an implanted device that treats central sleep apnoea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Central sleep apnoea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the diaphragm, triggering lapses in breathing that can last from a few seconds to minutes, the agency said in a news release. This can lead to poor sleep and ultimately raise a person's risk of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity and diabetes, the FDA said.

The condition is different from the more common obstructive sleep apnoea, in which breathing disruptions are caused by upper airway obstruction.

Other treatments

"Patients should speak with their health care providers about the benefits and risks of this new treatment option compared to other available treatments," said Tina Kiang, acting director of the FDA's Division of Anaesthesiology, General Hospital, Respiratory, Infection Control and Dental Devices.

Common treatments for sleep apnoea include medication, positive airway pressure devices or surgery, the agency said.

The new system, including a battery pack implanted in the chest, stimulates the phrenic nerve and monitors a person's lung function during sleep, the FDA said. In clinical testing involving more than 140 people, a measure of sleep apnoea was reduced by at least half among 51% of people who used the system. That compared to an 11% reduction among those who didn't have the system implanted.

The most common adverse reactions included implant-site infection and swelling near the implant site. The system should not be implanted in people with an active infection or among people who require use of an MRI machine, the FDA said. It's not clear when the treatment will be available in South Africa. 

Image credit: iStock


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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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