Electric stimulation of the upper airway muscle

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In various studies, it has been postulated that pharyngeal collapse occurring during sleep in obstructive sleep apnea may be alleviated by stimulating the genioglossus muscle. Basic experiments have demonstrated that neuromuscular stimulation applied intraorally via electrodes or by direct neural stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve might improve upper airway and respiratory function. An increase of maximal inspiratory airflow, an improvement of upper airway collapsibility and a decrease in respiratory events during sleep were observed. An impairment of sleep quality during electric stimulation has been excluded simultaneously. Considering clinical aspects, anatomical properties and long-term experience in electric stimulation it might be possible to develop full implantable devices as an alternative treatment for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

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