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Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast offers new procedure for sleep apnea

Special to Gannett / USA TODAY NETWORK

MIRAMAR BEACH — During the week of July 12, care teams at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast completed their first Inspire procedure.

The Inspire device works with with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea.

Inspire is an Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment option for people living with sleep apnea who struggle to use or get benefit from CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) therapy.

Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast is the first hospital to offer the procedure in Northwest Florida.

A member of the Ascension Sacred Heart of the Emerald Coast Care team installs an Inspire device in a patient.

The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that about 22 million Americans live with sleep apnea. It occurs when the airway collapses during sleep and blocks oxygen from flowing to the brain. The brain senses a lack of oxygen and wakes the body up just long enough to take a breath.

The cycle repeats throughout the night and causes poor, disruptive sleep. When left untreated, the consistent lack of sleep can sometimes cause other health issues like high blood pressure, depression, and heart issues.

“It’s exciting to finally have a surgical option for sleep apnea that can be equal to CPAP for people who cannot tolerate CPAP,” said Dr. Ryan Gegg, an ear, nose and throat doctor who treats patients at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast.

During the week of July 12, care teams at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast completed their first Inspire procedure. The item is surgically installed and helps prevent sleep apnea.

“We know that sleep apnea not only causes fatigue, but can have other significant heart and brain comorbidities if left untreated.”

The device works inside the body with a patient’s natural breathing process to treat sleep apnea. Mild stimulation opens the airway during sleep, allowing oxygen to flow naturally. When someone with the device takes a breath, the nerve that controls their tongue is stimulated causing their tongue to move forward without disturbing their sleep. The patient uses a small handheld remote to turn Inspire on before bed and off when they wake up.

The Inspire system is implanted during a short, outpatient procedure. The system is placed under the skin of the neck and chest through two small incisions. Most patients return home the same day and take over-the-counter pain medications to manage pain as needed.

Researchers have evaluated the safety and effectiveness of Inspire during a clinical trial and there have also been more than 150 peer-reviewed publications of the device. Five-year trial outcomes showed patients using Inspire experienced significant reductions in sleep apnea events and significant improvements in quality-of-life measures.

About ASHEC

Since its opening in 2003, Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast has consistently been ranked high among U.S. hospitals for the quality of its care and patient satisfaction survey scores. In June, the hospital was again named as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals by Merative. The hospital also recently earned the top safety grade of "A"  from Leapfrog Group, a national organization focused on preventing errors, accidents, injuries and infections in U.S. hospitals. In 2021 and 2022, the hospital also was named to Newsweek’s 2022 list of Best Maternity Care Hospitals.

For more information on services offered at ASHEC, visit ascension.org/EmeraldCoastFL.