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PVCH offers follow-up study for new sleep apnea treatment
Matt Stucker holds a remote button that activates an implanted device that treats sleep apnea. He is with Megan Donecker, director of the Sleep & Diagnostic Center at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital. PVCH now provides follow-up care for this implant treatment.

Matt Stucker of rural Larned wanted to seek an alternative to his CPAP device for a couple of reasons.

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure and is used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

“My main reason for seeking a new treatment was more freedom; we travel by motorcycle and it’s difficult to pack a CPAP machine,” said Stucker, 65. “In addition, it wasn’t working as well as it used to.

“Either I was not responding as well or I needed a change. I researched the implant and thought it was a better alternative.”

The implant procedure was performed in Andover but because of a new service at Pawnee Valley Community Hospital (PVCH), Stucker was able to have his follow-up therapy close to home.

The hospital’s Sleep & Diagnostic Center now offers the specialized sleep study that follows implantation of the remote-controlled device.

“It is absolutely fantastic that our local hospital offers this type of specialized sleep study,” Stucker commented. “The last I heard, PVCH is the only facility between Wichita and Denver to do so.

“The local sleep study went well,” he continued. “Everyone at the sleep lab was nice and professional, while making me as comfortable as possible.”

Stucker’s two-fold treatment began with a “minimal-sedation procedure” to ensure that the tongue is the obstruction to breathing while sleeping.

Next came the more extensive procedure under full anesthesia. One incision on the upper right chest allowed the battery and breathing sensor to be implanted; another was in the lower jaw area to implant electrodes that stimulate the tongue.

“I have had sleep apnea for years and was looking for something less intrusive than CPAP,” Stucker summarized. “It took a little time to become acclimated to the implant but the results have been good. I am now at the optimum as far as apnea prevention.”

Megan Donecker, sleep center director, noted the implant device is a treatment for sleep apnea that works inside the body to treat the root cause of the problem.

“The implant device reduces sleep apnea by an average of 79 percent,” Donecker said. “It also significantly reduces snoring and daytime sleepiness.”

Untreated sleep apnea can be extremely dangerous because it can lead to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart failure, metabolic syndrome and liver problems, she added.

“If left untreated, apnea also can affect a person mentally and emotionally,” Donecker noted.

A good candidate for the implant treatment has moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea; is unable to get used to CPAP; is not significantly obese; and is 18 or older. Most major insurance companies cover it.

The follow-up procedure at PVCH is called “fine-tune titration.” A sleep technologist makes adjustments that determine which settings are best for the patient.

“This treatment is a revolutionary therapy because it stimulates the base of the tongue,” Donecker said. “It offers a wider airway for the patient’s intake of oxygen.

“Those struggling with CPAP now have an exciting, new therapeutic choice. This puts our Sleep & Diagnostic Center at the forefront of sleep therapy and technology.”

Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, 923 Carroll in Larned, is a 25-bed facility, offering many services not typically available in a smaller facility. Included are 24/7 emergency care; acute, skilled and specialized nursing; surgery; high-tech imaging and laboratory tests; wound care; rehabilitation; and sleep and diagnostic center. PVCH Family Medicine, 713 W. 11th, provides the full range of family-medicine services; physician-assisted weight loss; and women’s health services. The hospital’s number is 620-285-3161; the clinic’s number is 620-804-6007.