Updated 09/03/2012 12:01 AM
Mount Sinai Introduces Robotic Surgery For Sleep Apnea Patients
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder affecting more than 18 million Americans. The condition is hard to diagnose but a new state-of-the-art cure is now an option for patients. NY1’s Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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For professor Mary Gettler, a good night's sleep was not part of her syllabus.
“I was waking up exhausted so I was not getting the proper night's rest,” she says.
Tired of feeling tired, Gettler, 48, was eventually recommended to take part in a sleep study. She was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. It's a condition where a person stops breathing for seconds, even minutes, during sleep because an airway becomes narrow or blocked.
“It can happen anywhere from five or 100 times an hour basically, where you're having these obstructive events over and over again, preventing them from getting proper deep sleep and creating a huge stress on the body basically," says Dr. Fred Lin, the director of Mount Sinai’s Sleep Surgery Center.
Gettler was given a mask designed to be worn during sleep to treat her apnea. But she wanted a more permanent solution and, up until recently, it was a tracheostomy.
“Tracheostomy is a direct hole from the neck into the airway," Lin says. "That is the probably only known way of curing sleep apnea, creating a bypass of the upper airway. But no one's going to want to wear a tube that's permanent in the neck.”
Now, there's a new procedure, robotic surgery, that is a less invasive option to cure sleep apnea. Lin used a robot on Gettler to remove the excessive tissue behind her tongue which was causing the blockage. The surgery took a little more than an hour. Two weeks later, NY1 met with Gettler who was recovering.
“I mean, I'm not waking up exhausted but I’m not, I think my routine will get better as I go forward,” Gettler says.
Doctors say if someone believes they’re not getting the sleep their body needs, they shouldn’t overlook certain symptoms characteristic of obstructive sleep apnea.
Those symptoms include snoring, chronic fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor memory and weight gain.