'It ruled everything that I did.' Tenn. sleep apnea patient says implant is finally helping her rest

Inspire Therapy is available at VUMC
Posted at 8:24 AM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 09:24:59-05

KINGSTON SPRINGS, Tenn. (WTVF) — Millions of people go to work tired due to their obstructive sleep apnea.

"A lot of patients don't recognize they have a problem with their own sleep," said Dr. David Kent said, director of sleep surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Department of Otolaryngology. "Often what people notice is not that they snore, but that they have a hard time during the day."

Kent offers Inspire Therapy to his sleep apnea patients if they are struggling with a CPAP machine or other treatments.

About 50 percent of CPAP users do not have success, including Shirley Flowers. She's had issues sleeping for more than 15 years.

"My entire life [had] been edited around a three hour nap in the afternoon or evening," Flowers said. "It ruled everything that I did."

Last year, Flowers had the Inspire device implanted in her chest. While she sleeps, the silver dollar-sized implant delivers a gentle stimulation to key airway muscles, allowing the airway to remain open. Flowers controls it with a small handheld sleep remote.

"I feel rested. Before I had like 8 a.m. to noon as my energy time," she said.

Kent explained that the implant does not alter the body overtime, however, it can be customized.

"It gives them an interval of time to fall asleep and therapy only goes on after that interval," Kent said.

Vanderbilt University is the only medical center in Middle Tennessee that is offering the Inspire.