Tongue motion variability with changes of upper airway stimulation electrode configuration and effects on treatment outcomes

Laryngoscope. 2018 Aug;128(8):1970-1976. doi: 10.1002/lary.27064. Epub 2017 Dec 27.


Objectives/hypothesis: Upper airway stimulation (UAS) is an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Previous data have demonstrated a correlation between the phenotype of tongue motion and therapy response. Closed loop hypoglossal nerve stimulation implant offers five different electrode configuration settings which may result in different tongue motion.

Study design: Two-center, prospective consecutive trial in a university hospital setting.

Methods: Clinical outcomes of 35 patients were analyzed after at least 12 months of device use. Tongue motion was assessed at various electrode configuration settings. Correlation between the tongue motion and treatment response was evaluated.

Results: OSA severity was significantly reduced with the use of UAS therapy (P < .001). Changes in tongue motion patterns were frequently observed (58.8%) with different electrode configuration settings. Most of the patients alternated between right and bilateral protrusion (73.5%), which are considered to be the optimal phenotypes for selective UAS responses. Different voltage settings were required to achieve functional stimulation levels when changing between the electrode settings.

Conclusions: UAS is highly effective for OSA treatment in selected patients with an apnea-hypopnea index between 15 and 65 events per hour and higher body mass index. Attention should be given to patients with shifting tongue movement in response to change of electrode configuration. The intraoperative cuff placement should be reassessed when tongue movement shifting is observed.

Level of evidence: 4 Laryngoscope, 1970-1976, 2018.

Keywords: Hypoglossal nerve stimulation; positive airway pressure failure; positive airway pressure intolerance; sleep apnea; tongue motion; upper airway stimulation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglossal Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phenotype
  • Polysomnography
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy*
  • Tongue / innervation*
  • Tongue / physiopathology*
  • Treatment Outcome