A new surgical treatment used to treat sleep apnoea has cured 70 per cent of patients involved in a Flinders Medical Centre study. It is the first time the technique, developed in China, has been properly evaluated.
FMC head of ear, nose and throat surgery, Professor Simon Carney, said the procedure was twice as effective as previous types of surgery.
“Our study of 48 sleep apnoea patients has shown that the technique has significant benefits, with the symptoms of every patient in the study improving,” Prof Carney said.
“The number of pauses in between the breathing of people involved in the study was reduced by 76 per cent and daytime sleepiness reduced by half.”
The hospital was the first in Australia to use the technique after the late Dr Sam Robinson brought it to Australia. The study also involved patients from the Illawarra ENT Head and Neck Clinic in New South Wales. The new technique, which requires only one night in hospital, involves repositioning tissue in the throat with a treatment that creates channels in the tongue.
The older technique was more painful and included the removal of a wedge in the tongue, before sewing it back together. “Often the patient wouldn’t be able to be guaranteed to talk or swallow completely normally afterwards and not surprisingly a lot of patients declined to have the surgery,” Prof Carney said.
“The results weren’t very good for a lot of these patients … only about 30 per cent of these patients got better.”
Prof Carney said the new technique took about 45 minutes and was much more successful.
“The technique is incredibly safe, easily taught and has long term benefits for the management of sleep apnoea within the health system.”
He said about five patients were now undergoing the procedure each month at Flinders and it was becoming available at other SA hospitals. But, he warned the technique was not a replacement for continuous positive airway pressure – a mask worn while sleeping – but an alternative for those where CPAP does not work, or was too intrusive.