Tampa General Hospital, USF Health are the First in Florida to Use Innovative Procedure for Central Sleep Apnea Patients

Published: Feb 19, 2021
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Due to the innovative procedure, 91 percent of patients have experienced dramatic improvement in their nighttime breathing.

Tampa, FL (February 19, 2021) – As part of its vision to be the safest and most innovative academic health system in America, Tampa General Hospital and USF Health are the first in Florida to use a ground-breaking procedure for the treatment of central sleep apnea. In this new approach, the cardiologist/electrophysiologist implants a pacemaker-like device under the skin in the patient’s chest with the goal of improving a patient’s breathing during sleep.

Central sleep apnea is a serious breathing disorder separate from the more commonly known obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain and the muscles that control breathing no longer communicate with each other and can result in pauses in breathing during sleeping that last anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds. Currently Tampa General is the only hospital in Florida offering the surgery.

“The device is proven to be effective at reducing the number of times breathing stops during sleep,” said Bengt Herweg, MD, FACC, FHRS, professor and director of electrophysiology for the division of cardiovascular sciences in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and medical director of electrophysiology for Tampa General Hospital.  “Before the introduction of this device, other standard therapies for central sleep apnea such as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines simply were not effective. Now, 91 percent of patients receiving the treatment experience dramatic improvements in their nighttime breathing and their quality of life.”

Called the Respicardia remedē® system, the device is an implantable pacemaker-like battery pack that stimulates the phrenic nerve, which is in the chest and is responsible for sending signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing. The system, which is slightly smaller than a standard size deck of playing cards, monitors the patient’s respiratory signals during sleep. “Once implanted and activated, this pacemaker-like device stimulates the phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm and restores a normal breathing pattern during sleep,” said Herweg. Tampa General performed the first Respicardia remedē surgery in December of 2020.

“Central sleep apnea is not caused by upper airway obstruction, like obstructive sleep apnea and snoring does not always occur,” said W. McDowell Anderson, MD, professor and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Tampa General Hospital. “It can be a hidden condition and patients may be unaware that they have it, which can lead to potentially serious conditions for the patient,” said Anderson. Central sleep apnea is diagnosed through a sleep study and Respicardia remedē is recommended for those with a moderate to severe case.

Most central sleep apnea patients also experience cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation. “Untreated central sleep apnea can cause life-altering levels of fatigue, as well as increased risk for heart failure and atrial fibrillation,” said Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, MD, a Tampa General Hospital medical director of advanced heart failure. “The risks for cardiac disease in central sleep apnea patients are well documented and can include doubling of mortality rates and more frequent hospitalizations, while other effects include excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment, depression and memory deficits.”

The device has been shown to help decrease the impact of heart failure. “Patients with heart failure can experience an improvement in symptoms in as little as six months from the time of activation,” Rinde-Hoffman said.

Respicardia remedē is typically implanted during an outpatient procedure. A few weeks later, the system is activated and patients generally see improvement between three to six months after that.

Tampa General is one of a select group of hospitals in the country to offer the Respicardia remedē. Patients looking for more information about the surgery and it is right for them, can contact the Tampa General Sleep Center, (813) 844-8153.

ABOUT TAMPA GENERAL HOSPITAL
Tampa General Hospital, a 1007-bed non-profit academic medical center, is one of the largest hospitals in America and delivers world-class care as the region’s only center for Level l trauma and comprehensive burn care. Tampa General Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in the market in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-21 Best Hospitals, and one of the top four hospitals in Florida, with five specialties ranking among the best programs in the United States. It is one of the nation’s busiest adult solid organ transplant centers and is the primary teaching hospital for the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. With five medical helicopters, Tampa General Hospital transports critically injured or ill patients from 23 surrounding counties to receive the advanced care they need. Tampa General houses a nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center and its 32-bed Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit is the largest on the West Coast of FloridaIt also is home to the Jennifer Leigh Muma 82-bed Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, and a nationally accredited rehabilitation center. Tampa General Hospital’s footprint includes 17 Tampa General Medical Group Primary Care offices, TGH Family Care Center Kennedy, TGH Brandon Healthplex, TGH Virtual Health and 19 outpatient Radiology Centers. Tampa Bay residents also receive world-class care from the TGH Urgent Care powered by Fast Track network of clinics, and they can even receive home visits in select areas through TGH Urgent Care at Home, powered by Fast Track. As one of the largest hospitals in the country, Tampa General Hospital is first in Florida to partner with GE Healthcare and open a clinical command center that uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve and better coordinate patient care at a lower cost. For more information, go to www.tgh.org.

ABOUT USF HEALTH
USF Health's mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the Taneja College of Pharmacy, the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs, and USF Health’s multispecialty physicians group. The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News & World Report’s national university rankings than USF. For more information, visit health.usf.edu.