Obstructive Sleep Apnea

According to the WHO, approximately 100 million people worldwide have obstructive sleep apnea, a collapse of the airway that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. (1, 2) In the U.S., obstructive sleep apnea symptoms affect one in four men, and one in nine women.

Untreated obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of death, as well as stroke, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart failure and diabetes. It causes interrupted sleep that leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, resulting in an increased risk of accidents and lost productivity.

The treatment of choice has been for patients to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask during sleep. The mask is attached to a machine that increases air pressure in the throat to prevent the airway from collapsing. But CPAP, along with other obstructive sleep apnea treatments, is not always successful or well tolerated. Mild electrical neurostimulation of the hypoglossal nerve has been investigated as a potentially promising nueromodulation option to treat obstructive sleep apnea.


1. Bousquet J, Khaltaev N. Global surveillance, prevention and control of Chronic Respiratory Diseases. A comprehensive approach. Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases. World Health Organization. 2007. p. 14. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2007/9789241563468_eng.pdf. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.

2. Medical News Today. What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)? What Causes Sleep Apnea? http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/178633.php. Accessed Feb. 6, 2013.

Reviewed April 2, 2012
Jaimie M. Henderson, MD
Director-at-Large, International Neuromodulation Society, 2011 - 2014
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, and, By Courtesy, of Neurology and Neurological Sciences; Robert and Ruth Halperin Faculty Scholar; Director, Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery; Co-Director, Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory; Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA

Last Updated on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 11:16 AM