April 3, 2023 — People with sleep apnea who can’t use CPAP now have a surgical option in Chattanooga.

Four years ago, Dr. Anuj Chandra with the Advanced Center for Sleep Medicine became the first Chattanooga-area sleep specialist to offer Inspire, an implanted, pacemaker-like device to treat sleep apnea. However, because no local hospitals could do the surgery, Dr. Chandra had to send about 30 Inspire patients to Nashville for surgery. Now CHI Memorial Hospital has been approved to do the surgery, and Dr. Chandra has eight patients who have had the Inspire device implanted here in Chattanooga or are scheduled to have the surgery here over the next few weeks.

“People with sleep apnea are commonly treated with CPAP, but it doesn’t work for everybody,” said Dr. Chandra. “Inspire is an alternative to CPAP that is somewhat similar to a cardiac pacemaker. A small device is implanted in the patient’s chest, and it gently stimulates the throat muscles to stay open and allow the patient to breathe normally.”

Inspire is an FDA-approved upper airway stimulation system that uses a surgically implanted impulse generator and sensing lead. The Inspire device senses when a person is inhaling and gives a gentle stimulation to muscles in the airway to keep the airway open and allow normal breathing.

Dr. Chandra began working with Inspire in 2019 and became the company’s first credentialed site in the Chattanooga area in 2020, providing pre-surgical evaluation and post-surgical monitoring of the device. CHI Memorial recently became credentialed as a surgical site. Inspire surgeries will be performed at Memorial by Dr. Alexander Sokohl.

More About Sleep Apnea and CPAP

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition in which breathing actually stops and starts during the night. Loud snoring or snorting is often a sign of apnea. Although these pauses in breathing are short, they have a strong cumulative effect. Sleep apnea can cause lower levels of oxygen in the blood and can contribute to many diseases, including high blood pressure or heart disease, type 2 diabetes, complications after surgery, liver problems, and more.

The gold standard for treating most cases of sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which the patient wears a small mask over the mouth and nose (or the nose only) and a small beside machine pumps air through the mask. The air pushed through the CPAP mask gently encourages the soft tissues in the patient’s mouth and throat to stay open, so the patient can breathe normally.

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