The functional effects of selective hypoglossal nerve (HG) stimulation with a multi-contact peripheral nerve electrode were assessed using images of the upper airways and the tongue in anesthetized beagles. A biphasic pulse train of 50 Hz frequency and 2 s duration was applied through each one of the tripolar contact sets of the nerve electrode while the pharyngeal images were acquired into a computer. The stimulation current was limited to 20% above the activation threshold for maximum selectivity. The images showed that various contact sets could generate several different activation patterns of the tongue muscles resulting in medial and/or lateral dilation and closing of the airways at the tongue root. Some of these patterns translated into an increase in the oropharyngeal size while others did not have any effect. The pharyngeal sizes were not statistically different during stimulation either between the two different positions of the head (30° and 60°), or when the lateral contacts were compared with the medial ones. The contacts that had the least effect generated an average of 53 ± 15% pharyngeal dilation relative to the best contacts, indicating that the results are marginally sensitive to the contact position around the HG nerve trunk. These results suggest that selective HG nerve stimulation can be a useful technique to produce multiple tongue activation patterns that can dilate the pharynx. This may in turn increase the size of the patient population who can benefit from HG nerve stimulation as a treatment method for obstructive sleep apnea.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience