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Tiny Implant Treats Sleep Apnea and Snoring

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 20 Nov 2013
Image: The Nyxoah neuromuscular electrical stimulation implant (Photo courtesy of Nyxoah).
Image: The Nyxoah neuromuscular electrical stimulation implant (Photo courtesy of Nyxoah).
An innovative ultra-small neuromuscular electrical implant stimulates the tongue muscle to treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Developed by researchers at Nyxoah (Brussels, Belgium), the flexible implant is the size of a coin and thinner than a few sheets of paper. The 20 X 2.5 mm implant is designed to be implanted close to the nerves of the tongue muscle by a single small incision performed during a short outpatient procedure. Once placed, the implant does not migrate, and has a lifetime of at least 12 years. Before sleeping, the patient places a disposable adhesive battery patch that wirelessly delivers energy to the implant.

The patch, which measures only 55 x 90 mm, has enough power to wirelessly activate the implant for a full night sleep session, stimulating the tongue throughout the night, completely preventing airway blockage during sleep. The OSA sufferer uses a new disposable patch that has been powered by the charger prior to use. The Nyxoah flexible tongue stimulation implant is a clinical-stage medical device and has been granted eleven US patents for the technology.

“There are many groundbreaking aspects to our solution. Being able to stimulate the tongue muscle all night using a small disposable battery patch is a major innovation,” said Adi Mashiach, MD, co-founder and CEO of Nyxoah, and inventor of the technology. “Our ability to enable minimally invasive implantation in a quick outpatient setting should open the procedure to a significant percentage of the affected population.”

OSA is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing (apnea), can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5-30 times or more an hour. Structural features, low muscle tone, and soft tissue around the airway give rise to the obstructed airway. The risk of OSA rises with increasing body weight, active smoking, and age. In addition, patients with diabetes have up to three times the risk of having OSA.

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