TL;DR: I’m a 27 y.o. fit male who had Inspire implant surgery to treat severe obstructive sleep apnea. After two days I already know that it’s a huge success.
I recently had the Inspire procedure for obstructive sleep apnea performed, and the device was activated on Monday. After two nights of using it, I can already say that it was a huge success.
First, a bit about me. Since I was a child, I had troubles with breathing when I was asleep. My parents had my tonsils and adenoids removed when I was a small child, but even after that I’ve snored terribly for all of my life. I have woken up with a dry mouth and a headache more times than I can count, and my jaw muscles cramp a lot. I’ve had girlfriends wake me up in the night because they were afraid that my teeth were in danger from excessive grinding (called bruxism). These are all symptoms of OSA.
A few months ago, I decided to get sleep tested. After my sleep test, I was informed that I had an Apnea-Hypopnea Index of 33. This means that I stopped breathing for more than 10 seconds an average of 33 times PER HOUR while sleeping. I was just not breathing for almost *10%* of my time asleep. This put me into the category of severe sleep apnea (>30 AHI).
Of the common risk factors for OSA, I satisfied only one. I’m a 27 year old male, and I am very physically active (rock climber). So losing weight was not an option, and OSA is rare at my age. The sleep physician immediately put me on a CPAP.
On the rare occasion I could keep the mask on all night, it seemed to work. That being said, I fought it. Some nights I couldn’t fall asleep wearing it, others I ripped it off in my sleep. And, to be entirely honest, part of it was vanity. I didn’t want to lug this machine around for the next 40-50 years potentially. And being single at the time, it was very un-sexy. Either way, I didn’t see CPAP as a viable option for the rest of my life.
So I pursued more permanent options. After visiting a few more doctors, I was presented with two options. A maxillo-mandibular advancement surgery, or the Inspire procedure. The MMA surgery sounded absolutely brutal. They cut the bones of your face in a goatee shape, then move them forward with hardware several millimeters to free up more room in the back of your mouth. Having my jaw wired shut for an extended period of time while it healed seemed terrible.
That’s when I decided to pursue the Inspire surgery. Essentially, they place a pacemaker-like device under the skin on your chest, then run a wire down between your ribs to your diaphragm, and another wire up to your hypoglossal nerve. You have two hypoglossal nerves that each control half of your tongue. In my instance, the implant is on my right pectoral, and the wire insertions are on my right ribs and right hypoglossal.
I had the surgery a month ago. It was an outpatient procedure, and really pretty painless. I had to take it easy for a few days, and couldn’t get back to climbing for a month. However, a month later, I had the implant programmed and received the remote two days ago.
When activated at night, the device receives an activation signal from your diaphragm operating (when you inhale), and passes that signal onto your tongue. The signal pushes your tongue forward and slightly to the left (because it’s attached to my right hypoglossal), freeing up room in the back of your throat.
It’s been two days, and I am already impressed. When I activate the implant, it gives a confirmation pulse in my tongue for 3 seconds, then stops for 30 minutes to allow me to fall asleep. Then, I wake up the next morning.
This morning, I woke up with morning breath. This isn’t something I’d experienced in years. My mouth was always dry from snoring. So waking up with that gross, morning breath taste, means that my mouth was closed all night. I was breathing through my nose! I woke up without a headache. I woke up feeling refreshed. I haven’t been tired today. The signal, as I’m using it right now, doesn’t wake me up. There is a range of signal strengths I can use, but it seems to be working so far just fine on the next to lowest setting.
I have a follow up sleep study in 3 months to determine effectiveness and fine tune any settings in the device, but so far the only down side is that there’s a weird plastic device in my chest that I can feel and see. Everything else points to the procedure being a huge success. I can’t be happier.
Feel free to ask if you have any questions! Thanks for reading!