WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast was the first hospital in Northwest Florida to implement a new sleep apnea device.

An estimated 22-million Americans struggle to sleep each night due to sleep apnea. The disorder cuts off oxygen to the brain, leading to snoring, fatigue, high blood pressure, even heart problems.

Sleep apnea treatments, like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAPs), have not been beneficial for many people. There’s a new medical procedure available locally that can relieve sleep apnea.

An FDA approved device, called “Inspire”, provides assistance for patients. Ear, nose, and throat doctor Ryan Gegg explained how he installs the product.

“I make two incisions, one under the chin and another one here in the chest. I dissect down to find the nerve that controls the movement of the tongue and I put a little generating stimulating device around that nerve and then I put another sensor in their chest that monitors their breathing at night. They just turn the device on before going to bed and it helps with their sleep apnea,” Dr. Gegg said.

Dr. Gegg said the first patient is recovering well and the entire Ascension community looks forward to completing more of these procedures.

“Forty percent of people prescribed to CPAP actually use it and they just can’t get around using that all night and so as a result they have a lot of medical issues and they just feel terrible. So it’s really cool to now finally have something I can have for patients that work really well for them,” Dr. Gegg said.

Now that the facility has completed the first “Inspire” procedure, Ascension Sacred Heart is looking forward to spreading the word throughout the local medical community.

“Anytime we can form collaborative partnerships with our physicians in the community or they’re interested in expanding their practice they want to bring some of that into the four walls of the hospital, it’s a win-win collaborative agreement. I think it’s nice to partner with them in a variety of ways such as this,” Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast president Bryan Walrath said.

“Inspire” is recommended for patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea conditions. Dr. Gegg said if you are interested in learning if you are eligible to give his office a call or visit his website.

The procedure takes around two hours during outpatient surgery.