Researchers Develop Smaller Sleep Apnea Treatment Machine

Dentistry Today


The most common treatment for sleep apnea involves continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). However, the devices that administer CPAP require an external airflow generator that must be plugged into an outlet, along with a full-face mask and hose. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), though, is developing a portable machine that should be easier to use.

“The average sleep apnea machine, though an effective treatment, can be large, cumbersome, and hard to transport,” said Arturo Ayón, PhD, a physics professor at the UTSA College of Sciences. “There’s a great need for a new approach to these machines. We believe that miniaturization would help sleep apnea sufferers get a better night’s sleep.”

Sleep apnea affects about 22 million Americans, with many more undiagnosed. During sleep, these patients suffer from disruptive pauses in breathing as the airway is obstructed. Left untreated, the condition can lead to a variety of health issues, ranging from daytime drowsiness and headaches to impaired functioning, stroke, and heart failure.

The UTSA’s prototypes use a built-in air compressor to prevention obstruction of the airway in place of the average CPAP machine’s external airflow generator. They also are smaller and don’t use any hoses. They are significantly quieter than common CPAP machines as well. And, the second prototype uses a pressure and feedback mechanism that enables users to adjust airflow pressure as necessary.

The researchers have submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to continue the machine’s development. They plan on further refining the concept over the next year or 2. Plus, they want to introduce the masks to potential customers. Recently, the researchers applied for funding to take these next steps.

“In the future, we hope to replicate and enhance the designs of our initial prototypes and to conduct the next phase of research necessary to bring the machine to market,” said Ayón. “It is a process, but it is a process that we are hopeful will ultimately bring relief to a great many people.”

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