As a flight attendant, Bryan Foster needs to be at the top of his game. But sleep apnea was taking a serious toll on his health and quality of life. Sleep apnea is a common condition in which breathing stops and restarts, depriving your body of oxygen.
"I had headaches, I was always on edge and I was falling asleep constantly during the day," Bryan said. Extensive sleep studies revealed that Bryan’s obstructive sleep apnea would cause him to stop breathing about 19 times or more in a single hour. He tried CPAP and BiPAP machines without much success.
Bryan learned about a new device that delivers mild stimulation to muscles that cause airway blockages.
Bryan, who lives in League City, TX, made an appointment with Dr. Andrew Tsao Huang, an otolaryngologist at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston who also serves as an associate professor of Otolaryngology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Huang found that Bryan's sleep apnea was severe and exacerbating his hypertension which was triggering a whole host of health problems. "Mr. Foster was basically suffocating while he was sleeping and his heart and blood vessels were responding in a way that caused his blood pressure to go up and medications were not controlling it," Dr. Huang said.
Dr. Huang implanted the device, Inspire, in an outpatient surgery at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in April, 2020. The device is placed under the skin using two small incisions. One is under the chin and the second is below the collarbone. The procedure is not painful and most patients can resume normal activities after a few days.
"I noticed an improvement right away,” Bryan said. “My blood pressure went from 170/100 to 138/90. I am now getting deep REM cycle sleep. I no longer have headaches or mood swings. My wife calls me the Energizer Bunny now," Bryan said.
Dr. Huang says Bryan's results are typical. "This device has really been a game changer for patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The success rate is above 95 percent. It's really a medical breakthrough for anyone who cannot tolerate a CPAP machine," he said.
According to Dr. Huang, Inspire is best suited for patients with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea who are not significantly obese and over 18 years of age.
It’s been three years since Bryan’s implant and he is still amazed at the results. "I'm not sure I'd still be here today without it. I probably would have had a heart attack or stroke," Bryan said. “It's given me a second chance at life.”