WATCH: Apnea Sufferers Find New Way to Get Some Sleep

By: WPXI
By: WPXI

The generator was implanted in Denise's chest a few weeks ago.  She turns it on with a remote before bed and a signal is sent to her tongue, moving it away from the airway.  Studies show it can reduce the effects of sleep apnea by at least 70 percent.

PITTSBURGH — About 12 million people are missing out on a good night's sleep every day. Sleep apnea can leave patients tired and out of options. But now, there's a brand new treatment that's making history at UPMC.

Channel 11's Katherine Amenta has an exclusive look at this game-changer.

“You wake up with a headache, every morning,” said Denise Hoover.

Hoover has started every day in pain for the past 20 years. Sleep apnea has been robbing her of a deep sleep.

“Your tongue basically blocks your airway and you stop breathing,” said Hoover. “You wake up gasping.”

It's so bad, Denise hasn't even had a dream in two decades. Instead, she's awake and sometimes wrestling with a CPAP mask.

She finally went to see Dr. Ryan Soose at UPMC Mercy. He had a brand new solution that could end up making medical history.

It's called upper airway stimulation therapy, and UPMC has led the international trials.

Channel 11 was invited to watch Soose turn on the country's very first FDA-approved device.

The generator was implanted in Denise's chest a few weeks ago. She turns it on with a remote before bed and a signal is sent to her tongue, moving it away from the airway. Studies show it can reduce the effects of sleep apnea by at least 70 percent.

“I think it's really a game changer and it could help millions of people,” said Soose.

Denise was sent home for her first night's sleep and Channel 11 checked in with her the next morning at work.

“It must have done its job because I fell asleep,” said Hoover.

Denise says she's hopeful a little fine-tuning will only improve the results.


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