Lab technician Lawrence Allen himself uses a CPAP machine due to sleep apnea . Some people, however, never feel comfortable enough with the CPAP machine and mask and hope for alternative treatment.
There is surgery available, such as the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). This procedure opens up the passageway by removing tissue, tightening muscles, and shortening the uvula. This surgery however is not always effective. Often times, this surgery will eliminate snoring, but not the apneas. The uvula-palatoplasty, involving the laser beam, is a more recent operation, of which long-term results are not yet determined.
Somnoplasty is a 10 minute procedure in which low-level energy is inserted into the soft palate through small electrodes. After six weeks, the tissue in that area is absorbed into the body, opening the passageway. The rest of the area is tightened, reducing snoring as well. (2)
Lawrence is participating in a research project at the Bayview sleep lab to look for alternative answers to traditional methods used to correct sleep apnea. Surgens used to do a tracheotomy, putting a tube down the patient's throat to widen the airway. But with many patients, the airways would still collapse somehow. Lawrence's work on a research project at Bayview is on an idea based on the same concept as the tracheostomy. Part of the patient's cannula would be scooped out, so that air has an alternate, wider route to the lungs. The research that Lawrence is doing deals with exactly what pressure of oxygen most patients need, to help determine how much of the cannula would need to be scooped out. He tries something in the sleep lab for 10-15 minutes to see how the people react, and then takes them back to the baseline for comparison.
(1) Nadeaux, Carol, and Lawrence Allen. Interview of sleep lab technicians by Emilie Sutterlin. Baltimore, Maryland, visit to the Bayview Sleep Disorders Center, Johns Hopkins University, Feb. 5, 1999.
(2) "Emory Doctors Use Quick, Pianless Procedure To Reduce Habitual Snoring." Emory University: March, 1998. URL: http://www.emory.edu/WHSC/HSNEWS/releases/mar98/032098snore.html
A good Somnoplasty website: http://www.somnus.com/som/snor.htm