People who suffer nightly from snoring and sleep apnea are desperate for practical, workable solutions. Unfortunately, for many of them, their doctors may prescribe CPAP, then not tell them about other treatment alternatives. To try to find their own alternatives, people are often willing to try anything (up to and including surgery on themselves!)

This is part of the reason why we’ve seen the development of so many unusual snoring and sleep apnea treatments that are unlikely to become widespread successful approaches. One such treatment is the recent use of magnets to treat sleep apnea.

The Idea Has Pull

One of the primary problems in sleep apnea is the collapse of the throat. That’s because the throat doesn’t have any real bony support between the jaw and the collarbone. Muscles provide most of the support, and when they relax at night, the throat collapses.

To attempt to overcome this, a San Francisco doctor has proposed the use of magnets to give additional support to the throat. First, a magnet is surgically implanted under the skin of the throat, attached to the hyoid bone. The hyoid bone is supposed to help provide support for the airway, but because the hyoid isn’t attached to any other bone, its supporting power is limited. Then, when a person sleeps, they put on a collar containing a second magnet. The pull between the magnets draws the hyoid bone outward, providing support for the airway.

Magnets can be used to treat sleep apnea

The idea is called Magnap, and it was developed by Dr. Mike Harrison. Dr. Harrison came up with the idea as a variation on a similar procedure to correct sunken chests in children using a similar method. This technique, known as the magnetic mini-mover procedure (3MP) is currently in phase III trials for FDA approval. The study is expected to be completed in November of this year.

So far, only one patient has received this treatment. He had tried CPAP and could not tolerate it.  He is relatively happy with the procedure’s results, but there may be limitations to this procedure that prevent it from ever becoming a widespread approach to sleep apnea.

Exploring the Negative Pole

Although the first patient to receive the treatment is happy with the results, there are many reasons why this treatment likely won’t become a widespread approach to treating sleep apnea.

First, it requires surgery. The surgery is less invasive than most sleep apnea surgical approaches, but with a number of successful nonsurgical interventions available, this procedure will have some difficulty attracting patients.

Another obstacle is likely to be the expense. There’s no cost projection for Magnap available, but the 3MP procedure costs about $50,000, considerably less than the $80,000 price tag of alternatives. But there are many economical sleep apnea treatments available, and it will be harder for the procedure to reach a competitive price point.

And then there are the complications and difficulties associated with having a magnet implanted in the throat. He cannot get an MRI because the magnet of the machine has the power to tear his magnet out.

But perhaps the biggest drawback for this procedure is that it’s not likely to be very comfortable. If you are looking for an alternative to CPAP, is a rigid collar around your throat likely to be a great improvement? While some people may be able to sleep fine, many would find the collar chafing and annoying. They would likely be unable to sleep with it.

Innovation Is Good

Although this particular discovery doesn’t seem like a success, we are always happy to see that people are coming up with new solutions to the problem of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a critical health danger, and if we are to really solve the problem, we need some of our best minds working on it and developing innovative approaches.

But sleep apnea is too critical to wait on new treatment options being developed. If you have sleep apnea in Omaha and are looking for comfortable treatment options today, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.