Originally Released: August 29, 1997
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A new system that uses special radio frequency energy to help people stop snoring has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore was one of six centers in the nation to take part in the clinical trial that led to FDA approval of the minimally invasive system.
About 20% of middle-aged adults snore each night and by age sixty, 60% of men and 40% of women snore habitually. Snoring is a mild form of upper airway obstruction that occurs when soft tissue in the upper airway relax during sleep and partially block airflow, causing tissues to vibrate and generate snoring sounds. The new system, SomnoplastyTM, treats the cause of snoring by shrinking the tissues in the upper airway, such as the soft palate, that relax during sleep.
"Patients can have this procedure as outpatients under local anesthesia," says Brian Emery, M.D., assistant professor of surgery. Emery, an otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon, was the lead investigator of Somnoplasty at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes, with less than five minutes for administration of the radio frequency (RF).
During the procedure, local anesthesia is used, then a tiny electrode is placed under the surface, or mucosa, of the obstruction. The physician does not cut excess tissue. Instead the electrode is used to send very low levels of RF energy, generating heat that destroys tissues in a very small area. After the procedure, the destroyed tissue is reabsorbed by the body and the obstruction shrinks within a few weeks.
"Somnoplasty is a good procedure because it's quick, minimally invasive, painless and effective," Emery says. "Also, it spares the lining of the breathing passages, therefore the palate retains a normal appearance."
Habitual snoring affects approximately 40 million people in the United States, and can be a precursor of serious disease.
Non-surgical snoring devices range from special pillows to nose patches. These treatments do not cure snoring and must be used every time the snorer sleeps. Surgical methods include uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), or the surgical removal of the uvula, part of the soft palate, tonsils and possibly other excess tissue in the throat. UPPP typically requires general anesthesia and an overnight stay in the hospital. Laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP) is the surgical resection of the uvula and is usually done under local anesthesia, but requires multiple treatments and can only be used to treat obstructions at the level of the soft palate. The Somnoplasty procedure causes less bleeding and pain than surgery because the physician does not cut or burn excess tissue.
The Somnoplasty system was developed by Somnus Medical Technologies, Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif.
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