The second part of this feature examines further new and supposedly effective treatments of heavy snoring and sleep apnoea.
Sound Sensor and Microphone
This consists of a plastic pressure sensor fixed to the top lip before sleep. This is stuck on with an adhesive strip, like a plaster, and secured in place with a piece of elastic that runs around the back of the head. The sensor measures air pressure as the patient exhales — a drop in pressure is a sign the patient is about to stop breathing. The sensor is connected to an iPod-sized control box, which constantly analyses the information it receives.
When it detects the patient is about to suffer an apnoea, it sends a short burst of sound to the earpiece. The device can emit hundreds of different sounds, and runs through them until it finds one that has the desired effect — a rise in air pressure that means the patient is exhaling and that the apnoea has been stopped. The signal is designed not to wake the patient, but instead to slightly ‘startle’ the brain, rousing it enough for it to tighten the muscles surrounding the windpipe.
Verdict: Currently on test on 125 US patients with UK trials due for 2013 but no confirmation of results as yet. The Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough, says: ‘It is an interesting idea but many more trials are needed to see how well it works. Likely Cost: £400+.
Radiotherapy of the Soft Palate
One of the most common causes of snoring of course is having a soft palate and often surgery is recommended under a general anaesthetic to trim this back in a procedure called UPPP. I’ll miss out the mile long full title which reads like the name of that famous Welsh Railway station that no-one can pronounce but starts with Llan…..and ends in ‘gogogoch’. This operation is a last resort usually, and involves keeping the patient in hospital for a period of three or four days after the operation followed by a period of intense pain for anything up to two weeks.
As an alternative to this a new procedure has been trialled in Darlington and involves the use of RPS – Radiofrequency Palatal Stiffening. This has a price tag of about £1.500, which is a good £2,000 less than the previously described procedure of UPPP. But will it last? As yet there is no evidence one way or the other – very few procedures have taken place and they are recent, with no longer term assessments currently being available. That sort of proof will obviously be some years in coming.
Verdict: Quite expensive, moderately untested, and again, time will tell.
The £3 Anti-Snoring Jab is here
At that price we start to say to ourselves “Surely it can’t possibly be any good because it’s so cheap.”
A pretty normal reaction to anything that has a price point that seems to undermine its value – after all, a bottle of Cough Linctus will cost you more. The claim is that it takes two minutes and costs just £3, but its effects could be priceless for the partners of loud snorers. It involves injecting a chemical ‘stiffener’ called Sodium Tetradecyl directly into the roof of the mouth. This hardening agent, once activated, stops the movement of the soft tissue at the back of the mouth and prevents it from vibrating.
So far, there have been just a couple of hundred patients who have undergone this procedure, and all in Liverpool, where its chief (and only) proponent, Dr Hadi Al-Jassim, operates as a private ENT specialist. He has now concluded a series of talks around the country promoting this route as an alternative to the previously described painful, and expensive surgery.
When reviewed recently in the Daily mail his comments were “’Surgical treatment is very painful and takes weeks of recovery time so many patients decide not to do it because they can’t get the time off work or their health’s not strong enough for surgery.
‘After this jab, patients can probably go home straight away and eat about an hour later. It will probably help around 70 per cent of people who have suffered from heavy snoring and it has made life easier for many patients and their partners.
Even with those people it hasn’t cured, they reported sleeping better and waking up feeling fresher. The jab can be given three times a year but some people find one injection lasts them a year.
Verdict: As yet again, there are no longer-term studies or reports tracking the possible side effects or problems – it’s far too early for that. But it’s cheap perhaps suspiciously so to many – and the long term benefit is an unknown quantity – again it’s time will tell.
Overall Verdict: It’s probably wisest where your health is concerned to stay with the tried and tested – and a product tested for a long time too.