HOUSTON (March 30, 2021) – Baylor St. Luke’s Center of Sleep Medicine has completed the first sleep-apnea treatments in Texas that employ a newly approved surgical method, easing patient pain while bolstering outcomes.
Baylor St. Luke’s was the first hospital in the state offering this less-invasive procedure developed by Inspire Medical Systems, Inc. The hospital began using this improved surgical procedure within days of obtaining approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under the approach, surgeons can implant the small device using only two incisions instead of the previous three.
“Research shows that people with obstructive sleep apnea may be at elevated risk for COVID-19 illness. This improved treatment delivers relief they need and reinforces their overall health—and it shortens surgery time by about 20 percent,” said Dr. Andrew Huang, otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeon, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Huang has now completed eight implants with the advanced method, which the FDA approved this month. Huang was the first trained ear, nose and throat physician in the Texas Medical Center to implant the device in 2019. Once in place, the device treats obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) by providing mild stimulation to open the airway while a patient is sleeping. OSA is a sleep disorder and occurs when muscles in the throat temporarily relax and block the flow of oxygen to the brain during sleep.
Inspire’s approach, known as upper-airway stimulation, is the first OSA therapy that addresses the root cause of sleep apnea from inside the body. It’s intended for patients who don’t tolerate CPAP therapy, an interventional treatment that requires patients to wear a mask and hose during sleep. A Chicago-area study published last fall found patients with OSA were several times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than similarly situated patients. A contributor to U.S. News & World Report highlighted the research in December.
“While potential links between COVID-19 and OSA warrant deeper study, we know we can reduce risks to OSA patients and almost immediately improve their quality of life with Inspire’s refined surgical technique,” said Huang, who also is an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Baylor College of Medicine. “The improvements let us trim typical outpatient surgery times by nearly a half-hour, minimize the chance of breast and chest wall injury and lessen patient pain after the procedure.”
OSA affects an estimated 22 million people in the United States. If left untreated, it can cause chronic fatigue from poor sleep quality, which can lead to decreased functionality, diminished quality of life and increased health risks of stroke, heart attacks and associated damage, Huang said.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimated the condition led to an economic burden of $150 billion in 2015. OSA patients implanted with Inspire show improved daytime functioning, less daytime sleepiness and fewer reports of bedtime snoring from their partners.
“We’re enormously proud that we can lead the Houston medical community in offering this lower-impact therapy to people struggling with OSA, especially at such a stressful time when we all badly need our sleep,” Huang said.
Baylor St. Luke’s Center of Sleep Medicine offers patients in the Greater Houston area an easy and convenient option in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders. It is staffed by physician specialists in pulmonary medicine, cardiology, neurology, psychology and otolaryngology (ears, nose, and throat). Sleep Medicine specialists focus on the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disturbances and disorders including OSA, insomnia, narcolepsy, parasomnia and sleep wake schedule disorders. Pulmonary Critical Care Sleep Medicine specialists and registered technical staff are dedicated to treating conditions linked to sleep disorders, such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression and anxiety disorders. For more information, visit stlukeshealth.org/sleep.
About Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center
Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center is an 881-bed quaternary care academic medical center that is a joint venture between Baylor College of Medicine and St. Luke’s Health. Located in the Texas Medical Center, the hospital is the home of the Texas Heart® Institute, a cardiovascular research and education institution founded in 1962 by Denton A. Cooley, MD. The hospital was the first facility in Texas and the Southwest designated a Magnet® hospital for Nursing Excellence by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, receiving the award five consecutive times. Baylor St. Luke’s also has two community emergency centers offering adult and pediatric care for the Greater Houston area.
About St. Luke’s Health – Texas Division
St. Luke’s Health is a fully-integrated network that provides care to the communities in Greater Houston, East Texas, and the Brazos Valley through 16 acute care hospitals and over 270 access points including numerous urgent care centers, freestanding emergency departments, and clinics conveniently located across the region. With a team of 11,000 employees and caregivers and more than 5,000 physicians, St. Luke’s Health is dedicated to a mission of enhancing community health as the high value provider through high-quality, cost-effective care. A joint venture with Baylor College of Medicine, St. Luke’s Health operates Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in the Texas Medical Center, a leading academic health center with quaternary care and advanced specialists. St. Luke’s Health is part of CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. Learn more at StLukesHealth.org.