Pacemaker implant under tongue that rids snoring

Scientists have come up with a new pacemaker-style device which they claim when implanted underneath one’s tongue could help stop snoring.

An international team claims that the new implant, called the Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation System, works by stimulating the nerve which controls the muscles of tongue, thus helping reduce the severity of sleep apnoea, a major cause of snoring.

The device is programmed to work only when the patient is asleep; or it can be turned on and off as needed through a remote control, the Daily Mail reported.

Most of the snorers are “tongue-snorers”, which means that the tongue and soft tissue around the throat falls into the back of the airway, causing the tissue to vibrate as air flows past it.

The new implant works on the muscles of the tongue, causing them to contract at once. This not only pulls the tongue forward, but these muscles also control the soft tissue in the walls of the airway, so it pulls open the airway, too, say the scientists.

The treatment involves implanting a small electrode next to the hypoglossal nerve, which sits underneath the tongue. A pacemaker-size generator is also implanted in a surgically created pocket in the chest and connected to the electrode in the tongue via wires tunnelled under the skin.

Tiny sensor wires are tunnelled from the generator into the windpipe, where they monitor breathing by detecting changes in air pressure in the throat.

If a prolonged drop in pressure is detected, this signals that the airway may be blocked, and the electrode shocks the tongue muscles, pulling it clear of the airway and allowing the patient to breathe properly again, say the scientists. The research at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Australia, shows that the therapy can be highly effective.

The trial involved 21 patients aged 43 to 63 with moderate to severe sleep apnoea, who were assessed for six months after having the device implanted. The findings revealed that that severity levels dropped from a score of 43 to 19.5. Daytime sleepiness rates also dropped by one-third, and quality of life increased by 50 per cent.

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