A device implanted under the skin like a pacemaker may help treat central sleep apnea in heart failure patients.
Central apnea is a condition in which breathing stops during sleep because certain areas of the brain are not functioning properly.
Central sleep apnea differs from obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a repetitive collapse of the upper airway, but central sleep apnea is generated in the brain, is typically seen in about 35% of heart failure patients, and doubles the risk of death.
Researchers implanted the device in 46 people with severe central sleep apnea.
The device, which is called a pulse generator, is placed under the skin, just below the collar bone.
It stimulates the diaphragm and regulates breathing.
Results show that after a year, not only was there a reduction in the severity of sleep apnea among the participants, but they had better overnight blood oxygen levels, and improvements in overall sleep. They also saw improvements in their heart rate and their quality of life.
Researchers say the device could provide another method of treatment for people who are not comfortable wearing a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, mask.
The results of this study were presented at the “Heart Failure Congress 2014” in Athens, Greece.