Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

To help treat obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Northwestern Medicine offers hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HNS). Your hypoglossal nerve is a nerve in your neck that controls your tongue and muscles in the back of your throat. When you sleep, those muscles can relax, and the tongue may block your airway — causing sleep apnea.

For HNS treatment, a surgical team will insert an Inspire® device under the skin on your chest. The device will stimulate key muscles in your airway to help you breathe normally and stop snoring. The procedure takes 2 to 3 hours, and you can go home the same day. After the device has been inserted, you can control it with a handheld remote. You can use the remote to turn the device on before bed and off in the morning when you wake up.

Inspire is an FDA-approved device. You may qualify for HNS treatment with an Inspire device if you:

  • Have been diagnosed with moderate to severe OSA
  • Cannot use or get consistent benefit from CPAP
  • Are not significantly overweight
  • Are over age 18

Potential health risks from HNS include:

  • Infection
  • Tongue weakness
  • Swallowing
  • Speech problems
  • Discomfort
  • Tongue abrasion
  • Insomnia/arousal

Talk with your physician about whether HNS is a treatment fit for your OSA needs.