New relief for sleep apnea

August 6, 2012 12:58:07 AM PDT
Half of all middle aged men suffer from it, but only twenty percent know they have it.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can be deadly. Now a new surgery could help sufferers get the sleep they need.

One of Sponge Bob's creators is one of 12 million American suffering from sleep apnea. Albie Hecht ran nickelodeon for a decade. During his last year he felt like he was stuck in a nightmare.

"I was walking up 57 times an hour," Albie told Action News.

"Sleep apnea has shown to increase the occurrence of serious medical problems," Jeffrey M. Ahn, M.D., director of sleep disorder & robotic surgery, at NY-Presbyterian/Columbia, explained.

While recommended for all, only half of the people diagnosed will sleep with a bulky C-Pap machine. Most will go untreated. The other option is surgery.

"The problem is, there was really no good way to address the area without making a large incision in the neck," Dr. Ahn said.

Doctors at New York Presbyterian/Columbia now use a robotic surgery to get to the problem.

"At the back part of the tongue, there's some lymphoid tissue, and all this excess tissue is obstructing the airway," Dr. Ahn said.

Doctor Ahn can now go in through a patient's mouth without an incision. He shaves away the excess lymphoid tissues, opening up the airway. Patients are on a soft diet and might suffer from a severe sore throat for up to two weeks, but for Albie, it was worth it.

"I sleep very well now, that's the miracle of it all," Albie said.

If you're overweight you can be more prone to sleep apnea. Because of the post-op diet, people who get the robo-surgery benefit from a good side effect, they usually lose about twenty pounds.


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