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How Can You Get Relief from Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Seminar Will Explain Both Standard and New Treatment Options

Are you unable to get a good night’s sleep because you wake up frequently during the night? Are you tired during the day or do you feel excessively sleepy? Have members of your family complained about your loud snoring? If so, it’s possible you have a common disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.

According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 12 million American adults have obstructive sleep apnea. With this potentially serious disorder, the person’s airway collapses or is blocked briefly during sleep, causing lapses in breathing. Sleep apnea is usually a chronic, ongoing condition that disrupts the person’s sleep several times a night. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious complications such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and irregular heartbeats, as well as increased risks for obesity and diabetes.

“Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, frequent awakenings and daytime fatigue,” says Dr. Jason Van Tassel, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) at Washington Township Medical Foundation. “Other signs of sleep apnea might include morning headaches and dry throat, an inability to concentrate and feelings of irritability or depression.”

Dr. Van Tassel notes that many sleep apnea sufferers are able to gain relief by using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which delivers a constant stream of air through a nasal mask to keep the airway open. Unfortunately, many patients find the CPAP mask too uncomfortable or too noisy to wear while sleeping.

“Other people with sleep apnea may benefit from special orthodontic mouthpieces that move either the tongue or the upper jaw forward,” he says. “For some sleep apnea patients, though, surgery or surgical implants may be better options, and advances in minimally invasive surgical procedures have dramatically improved the results.”

To help people in the community learn about the treatment of sleep apnea, Washington Hospital is sponsoring a special free seminar featuring Dr. Van Tassel on Tuesday, August 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. The seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, MD, Auditorium at 2500 Mowry Ave. in Fremont.

“Many years ago, the only surgery performed for sleep apnea was a procedure called a ‘uvulopalatopharyngoplasty,’ also known as UP3,” Dr. Van Tassel explains. “The UP3 procedure basically removes excess amounts of tissues from the back of the mouth and the upper part of the throat just behind the mouth and nasal cavity to allow air to move more freely.”

Dr. Van Tassel notes that UP3 procedures have been effective in some, but certainly not all, cases.

“Over the past 15 to 20 years, we have learned that obstructions resulting in sleep apnea can also be found in other areas of the airways, such as the nasal cavity, the base of the tongue and the larynx – also called the ‘voice box’ – in the throat,” he says. “As a result, doctors developed several minimally invasive procedures that greatly enhance the success of sleep apnea surgery. In my experience, these procedures have a 70 to 80 percent success rate in dramatically reducing the incidence of sleep apnea, compared to only 40 to 50 percent of patients who had only the older UP3 procedure.”

At the seminar, Dr. Van Tassel will explain some of the minimally invasive surgery procedures for sleep apnea, including:

  • Radiofrequency tongue reduction to reduce the volume of the base of the tongue
  • Hyoid myotomy and suspension – pulling the hyoid bone (a horseshoe-shaped bone in the neck where the tongue muscles attach) forward in front of the larynx
  • Septoplasty to straighten out an extremely deviated (crooked) nasal septum, the partition between the two sides of the nose
  • Turbinate reduction to reduce the size of an abnormally large turbinate, a structure that projects from the side wall of the nose into the nasal cavity

In addition to these procedures, Dr. Van Tassel will discuss a minimally invasive surgical implant procedure that holds up the hyoid bone in the neck. Available since 2014, the “Airlift” implant was developed by Siesta Medical in Los Gatos, with Dr. Van Tassel’s assistance in developing a knotless suture procedure. Dr. Van Tassel also collected clinical evidence that supported FDA approval of the Airlift implant procedure.

“That clinical evidence showed a 78 percent reduction in sleep apnea symptoms with the implant procedure,” Dr. Van Tassel says. “The Airlift procedure continues to be very effective in relieving sleep apnea, with about a 75 percent success rate.”

He also will explain a new surgical implant procedure that has been available since 2015 – the “Inspire” electronic implant. This implant works like a pacemaker to stimulate muscles of the tongue to contract the size of the tongue and thereby alleviate obstruction of the airway.

“The Inspire implant is beneficial only for certain patients whose tongue is obstructing the airway,” Dr. Van Tassel says. “Obviously, one of the first steps in dealing with sleep apnea is to perform a comprehensive physical examination to determine what physical obstructions may be contributing to the disorder. Sometimes it may require a combination of treatment options to provide effective, lasting relief.”

To register for the free seminar on August 23, or to find a personal physician, call 800.963.7070 or visit