Sleep Apnea

Get On The Path To Better Sleep

by WakeMed Health & Hospitals // January - February - March 2023

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a chronic sleep disorder affecting roughly 18 million adults across the country. With OSA, the tongue and soft tissue in your upper airway collapse during sleep and cause respiratory obstruction. When this occurs, you stop breathing and awake suddenly, often grasping for breath. Most people with sleep apnea have no idea that this is happening as many as 60 times per hour!

Obstructive sleep apnea is often characterized by loud snoring, and it causes fatigue, daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, and poor concentration, along with mood changes and depression. Untreated OSA can eventually lead to serious risk of diabetes, hypertension, and stroke, as well as an increased likelihood of workplace or motor vehicle accidents. That’s why treatment of OSA is key and, fortunately, treatment options have come a long way.

Many patients get relief with lifestyle changes and/or wearing a facemask that is connected via a tube to a device that pumps continual air into their nose and mouth while they sleep. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, known as a CPAP machine, solves sleep apnea issues in about half of the cases.

For patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea that can’t be managed by CPAP or other solutions, there is a new treatment option – an implant designed to work inside the body and alongside the patient’s natural breathing process.

Recently, Dr. Mike Ferguson and Dr. Allen Marshall with Wake-Med ENT – Head & Neck Surgery completed the first hypoglossal nerve stimulator Inspire implant for sleep apnea at the hospital. The implant delivers mild stimulation to key muscles of the tongue, allowing the airway to remain open during sleep. During an outpatient surgery performed under general anesthesia, the nerve stimulator and its processor are implanted in the neck and chest wall, respectively.

When it comes to sleep apnea, a full medical evaluation is important. In order to qualify for hypoglossal nerve implant surgery, you will need to undergo a sleep study – or have had a sleep study within the last two years – that demonstrates moderate to severe sleep apnea. Additional criteria include a body mass index of 32 or less, documented CPAP intolerance, and sometimes a sleep medicine consultation.

For more information about sleep disorders, sleep apnea, and treatment options, or to schedule an evaluation, call the WakeMed ENT – Head & Neck Surgery practice at 919-350-EARS (3277) or visit

WakeMed Health & Hospitals