Czech doctors to treat snoring with magnets

Foto: archivo de Radio Praga

A new surgical treatment of snoring and sleep apnea has been performed for the first time in the world by Czech doctors in the west Bohemian town of Domazlice. The method was developed by the American company Apneon, which chose the Czech doctor Vaclav Pavelec on the basis of his published specialist studies. I spoke to Mr Pavelec earlier today and started by asking him about the problem of snoring in general.

Rick Lilly from the American company Apneon shows the surgical implant against snoring, photo: CTK
"Snoring itself can only be a social or a cosmetic problem. The worse situation occurs when there is a hidden problem behind snoring and that's apneas - blockages of the airways during the night that cause the decrease of the oxygen saturation in blood."

"This leads to severe problems in the patient, such as tiredness, daily sleepiness, erectile dysfunctions or headaches. When it's not recognised soon and not treated, it can lead to hypertension with severe consequences for the patient such as stroke, heart attack and even sudden death."

So that's when you need to treat it with some surgical methods.

"Up to now the treatment of choice was the so-called CPAD - continuous positive airway pressure - that's a ventilator that pushes the air into the airways during the night through a mask. But this treatment is of course not tolerated by quite a large amount of patients. That's why surgeons all around the world are trying to find something more acceptable for the patients and one of the ways is magnetic system."

How does it work?

"Basically we implant internal magnet into the tongue of the patient. When the patient is healed he comes for external fitting where we adjust the external magnet on the patient's chin. This external magnet drags the internal device forward and opens the airways behind the tongue. So it solves the reason of the blockages."

Doesn't it bother you when you have a magnet in your mouth for example when you eat with a spoon which is made of metal? Doesn't it stick to your tongue?

"That was the most important question for us at the beginning of the study of course. Fortunately we have operated five patients up to now and none of them suffers from these problems. They have no foreign body sensation. It doesn't interfere with any metal things including spoons."

And you only attach the outer magnet at night...

"Yes, exactly. One of the advantages of this method is that this device can be "switched off" when the person get up in the morning."