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Does CPAP Work for You?

Learn about options for sleep apnea treatment at free community seminar

The continuous positive airway pressure machine, commonly called CPAP, is often known as the treatment of choice for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that affects up to 18 million Americans. And yet, studies have shown that up to 75 percent of CPAP users cannot tolerate the machine. Many stop using it altogether.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious, chronic condition that occurs when a person’s throat muscles relax during sleep. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you tend to stop and start breathing repeatedly during the night. Most sleep apnea sufferers snore loudly and feel tired the next day, despite having a full night’s sleep.

“Many sleep medicine doctors will tell you that CPAP is your only option for treating sleep apnea, and surgery is not effective. This is not accurate,” said Jason Van Tassel, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Washington Township Medical Foundation.

On Tuesday, October 20 at 8 p.m., Dr. Van Tassel will lead a community Health & Wellness seminar about “Obstructive Sleep Apnea: New Options for Treatment.” The forum is free and open to the public and will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD Auditorium near Washington Hospital in Fremont. To reserve your spot, go online to and click on Events. Then, select October 20 on the calendar. Or, call (800) 963-7070.

Alternatives to CPAP

Dr. Van Tassel reports that there are dental appliances that can be a non-invasive alternative to the CPAP in treating sleep apnea. At the seminar, he will also talk about surgical procedures that can be effective.

“The three surgeries I will talk about are generally not painful or debilitating and do not require a lot of downtime for the patient,” Dr. Van Tassel stated. “They can be performed independently or in conjunction with each other to optimize sleep surgery results.”

All three procedures are minimally invasive and can be done on an outpatient basis, so you can usually go home the day of surgery. They are covered by most health insurance plans.

  • Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP)—the surgeon removes excess throat tissue to widen the airway. This allows air to move through the throat more easily when the patient breathes. It can also reduce snoring.
  • Hyoid myotomy suspension— the hyoid bone and muscle attachments to the tongue and airway are pulled forward to increase airway size and stability. The hyoid is a U-shaped bone in the neck above the thyroid cartilage, commonly called the Adam’s apple. It has attachments to the tongue and throat.
  • Tongue-based suspension—the surgeon places a suture through the tongue to pull it forward. The suture is fixed to a tiny screw on the inner part of the jaw bone. This procedure is designed to make the airway larger and prevent obstruction during sleep.

Dr. Van Tassel explained: “In the best of circumstances, none of these procedures is 100 percent effective. However, up to 80 percent of people who have one or more of the procedures have good results and do not need to use the CPAP machine.”

What is sleep apnea?

At the October 20 seminar, Dr. Van Tassel will also talk about how your body functions when you have sleep apnea.

“A lot of people don’t understand what is going on with this sleep disorder,” he said. Although people who have sleep apnea tend to be age 40 or older, anyone can have the condition, including children. The following factors increase your risk of having sleep apnea:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • A large neck
  • Large tonsils, a large tongue or a small jaw bone
  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder)
  • Nasal obstruction from a deviated septum, allergies or sinus problems

When sleep apnea goes untreated, you may stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes as many as 100 times a night. So, the brain and the rest of your body may not be getting enough oxygen.

Other health problems that may get worse if sleep apnea is not successfully treated include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
  • Headaches

According to the National Institutes of Health, people with untreated sleep apnea are also “at higher risk for car crashes and work-related accidents.” The American Association for Respiratory Care estimates up to 10 million American have sleep apnea but have not been diagnosed.

Learn more.

To learn about Washington Township Medical Foundation, go to For more information about Washington Hospital and its Health & Wellness programs, visit, click on “About” and select “Community Connection.”