Alternatives to CPAP Devices for Sleep Apnea Sufferers
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices are an extremely effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – so why do we continue to look for alternative solutions? Very simply, although CPAP therapy often treats sleep apnea, it only works if the patient uses the device consistently and correctly. Research shows that 83 percent of CPAP users are non-compliant and that half of all CPAP users stop consistently engaging in therapy after just one to three weeks (Journal of the American Medical Association).
The Problem with CPAP Therapy & Patient Compliance
When we talk to our sleep apnea patients, a number of common themes begin to emerge regarding CPAP therapy. Although the devices often successfully eliminate sleep apnea, they also cause a number of problems for patients that outweigh the benefits of using the machine.
Common complaints include:
- The mask is too uncomfortable to wear.
- The mask causes skin irritation, rubbing, and pressure sores.
- The machine and mask make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- The device is too difficult to travel with.
- The device causes feelings of claustrophobia.
- The device causes a dry, stuffy nose and/or sore throat.
- The device causes chronic headaches.
- The device disturbs the wearer’s partner or the wearer’s relationship with his or her partner.
- The wearer or the wearer’s partner is disturbed by the machine’s noise.
- The wearer unintentionally removes the mask during the night.
OSA patients who have difficulty living with CPAP therapy have a hard choice to make: putting up with the discomfort and inconvenience of their CPAP device or putting up with the discomfort of their sleep apnea. Far too many patients end up abandoning the device, using it inconsistently from night to night, or only using it for a few hours each night. Unfortunately, these patients will continue to suffer both the short-term and long-term consequences of sleep apnea, which include daytime drowsiness, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and depression.
Five Alternatives to CPAP Therapy
While CPAP therapy is often the first treatment that doctors recommend to their patients, it is certainly not the only solution to OSA. Patients have a number of diverse options to explore, from alternative devices to permanent surgeries.
- Oral Appliance Therapy. These plastic mouthpieces, which look similar to mouthguards, compress the tongue and open the airway, making breathing easier during sleep. Oral appliances are only recommended for those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. Oral appliances may come with some of the same issues as CPAP: compliance rates could be lowered because of discomfort, inconvenience, irritation, and insomnia.
- Lifestyle Changes. Several lifestyle changes have been proven to help alleviate the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, including losing weight, exercising, and refraining from alcohol and smoking. However, ironically, sleep apnea sufferers often have difficulty with weight loss and exercise because of their complications from sleep apnea. In addition, a significant number of OSA patients may have the sleep disorder despite their healthy lifestyle.
- Positional Therapy. Sleep apnea is much worse when sufferers sleep on their back. Positional therapy involves training patients to sleep on their sides or stomachs – either with the help of a partner or with the help of a device that prevents the supine position. While this therapy may work well for some OSA patients, it may only slightly improve symptoms in others.
- Upper Airway Stimulation (UAS) Therapy. This new FDA-approved therapy, which involves a small, fully-implanted device, stimulates airway muscles and helps patients control their airway through a sleep remote control. This therapy has not been tested on patients with a body mass index (BMI) above 32. In addition, some patients may not wish to live with an implanted device and sleep remote for the foreseeable future.
- Sleep Apnea Surgery. There are a wide range of sleep apnea surgical procedures available, which vary widely in effectiveness, cost, and final outcome. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), for example, removes excess tissue in the mouth and throat in order to expand the airway. The most severe surgery, a tracheotomy, opens an airway in the neck. Until recently, most OSA surgeries have had disappointing success rates and long recovery times.
Our Surgical Sleep Solution
At Surgical Sleep Solutions, our physicians have dedicated their careers to developing the best possible surgical procedure for sleep apnea patients who are looking for a permanent, proven, and effective alternative to CPAP therapy. After years of development, we now offer a unique and unparalleled surgical sleep solution, our bimaxillary advancement treatment model.
This procedure, which surgically advances both the upper and lower jaw in order to permanently open the patient’s airway, has a confirmed 95 to 99 percent rate of success and allows the vast majority of patients to stop CPAP therapy forever.
- Read more about bimaxillary advancement surgery.
- Learn about our unique treatment model.
- Take our free sleep apnea self-evaluation.
We offer this procedure at two separate treatment centers, located in Rancho Mirage, California and Missoula, Montana.
Surgical Sleep Solutions welcomes and encourage your questions. Please contact Surgical Sleep Solutions today to learn more about our treatment model, speak to our physicians, or find out if you are a candidate for bimaxillary advancement surgery.