A Sound Night’s Sleep
Physicians: Inga Sriubiene, MD; Dennis Thompson, MD
Keith Henagan, 43, couldn’t remember the last time he got a sound night’s sleep. He was constantly waking throughout the night – sometimes 10 or 20 times – gasping for breath. When he was asleep, he would snore, which made it difficult for his wife to sleep soundly.
The cause of Keith’s restless nights was obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when structures in the throat block the air passage. Since the lungs aren’t getting fresh air, the brain tells the body to wake up just enough to tighten the muscles and unblock the air passage. With a loud gasp, breathing begins again. This process may be repeated over and over again throughout the night, making your sleep fragmented with a lighter stage of sleep.
“I suffered from obstructive sleep apnea since I was a child and was officially diagnosed 18 years ago,” said Keith. “It really took a toll on my life – I was grumpy and tired all the time. I never had any energy when I got home from work.”
Throughout the years Keith had worked with sleep specialist, Inga Sriubiene, MD, and ear, nose and throat specialist, Dennis Thompson, MD, in hopes of improving his sleeping patterns. In 2004, he underwent surgery with Dr. Thompson to reshape his uvula, remove his tonsils, and correct a deviated septum. The procedures helped for some time but eventually his symptoms would return. After undergoing a sleep study, Dr. Sriubiene suggested Keith try a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which uses a hose and mask to deliver constant and steady air pressure during sleep.
“I tried to use the CPAP as much as possible, but it really didn’t work for me,” said Keith. “I was still waking up multiple times each night. Plus I’m claustrophobic, so the whole thing really was a nightmare.”
Determined to get the sleep he needed, Keith began researching other treatment options. He discovered upper airway stimulation which was being performed in Europe and proving to have great clinical results. After learning Dr. Thompson had recently became certified to perform the procedure, Keith knew it could be life changing.
A few months later, he became the first patient at Spectrum Health Lakeland to undergo upper airway stimulation surgery. During the outpatient procedure, a small, implantable device is placed under the skin. The device is controlled using a handheld remote and when turned on, monitors patients’ breathing patterns to deliver mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, which controls the movement of the tongue and other key airway muscles. Patients can turn on the system before bed and off when they wake up, increase and decrease stimulation strength, and pause during the night if needed.
“The procedure has been life changing for me,” said Keith. “Now I turn on the device when I go to bed and sleep through the night – it really works. My wife had to get used to me not snoring anymore.”
Since the surgery, Keith is feeling more alert in his role as a Senior Model Maker at Whirlpool and has more energy when he gets home at night.
“You don’t realize how bad it really is until you fix the problem,” said Keith. “If someone isn’t benefitting from using a CPAP I would 100 percent recommend they look into upper airway stimulation. We are truly blessed to have this technology here at Lakeland.”