(07/17/12) - Sponge-Bob Square Pants and Sleep Apnea- yes, there is a tie in! The cartoon character's creator got some help from a new treatment that is expected to help a loft of sufferers finally get some relief, and a good night's sleep!
Sponge Bog creator, Albie Hecht is one of 12 million Americans suffering from sleep apnea. Hecht ran Nickelodeon for a decade.
He says his last year was a nightmare. "I was waking up 57 times an hour."
Dr. Jeffrey Ahn, the director of sleep disorders at New York Presbyterian Columbia Hospital, says the disorder can dangerous. "Sleep apnea has shown to increase the occurrence of serious medical problems."
While recommended for every patient, only half will sleep with a C-pap machine. Most simply go untreated.
But, Dr. Ahn says there is another option - surgery. "The problem is, there was really no good way to address the area without making a large incision in the neck."
But he and his colleagues are now using a robotic technique. "At the back part of the tongue, there's some lymphoid tissue, and all this excess tissue is obstructing the airway."
With the robot, surgeons can now go in through a patient's mouth, without an incision. He shaves away the excess lymphoid tissues, opening up the airway.
After surgery, patients are put on a soft diet and might suffer from a severe sore throat for up to two weeks.
For Albie Hecht, it was worth it. "I sleep very well now, that's the miracle of it all."
If you're overweight, you can be more prone to sleep apnea. Because of the post-op diet, people who get the robo-surgery benefit from a helpful side effect - an average weight loss of about 20 pounds.
ABC12 Main Station