Sticking a hot probe up the nose to clear airways may stop snoring
- U.S. firm has developed a probe, called Vivaer, that destroys bulky nasal tissue
- Heating up to 60c, it uses radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to shrink swollen skin
- Nasal congestion is major cause of snoring as it forces people to mouth-breathe
Breakthrough: A U.S. firm has developed a hand-held probe, called Vivaer, that can destroy bulky nasal tissue in minutes
Sticking a hot probe up the nose to clear blocked airways may end snoring for good in some people.
The probe — which heats up to 60c — about the temperature of hot water from a tap — uses radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to shrink swollen tissue causing the blockage.
Energy produced by radio waves generates heat; RFA is already used to destroy tumour cells in patients with liver, kidney or lung cancer.
Now a U.S. firm has developed a hand-held probe, called Vivaer, that can destroy bulky nasal tissue in minutes.
Nasal congestion is a major cause of snoring as it forces people to breathe through their mouths as they sleep. This makes soft tissue at the back of the throat vibrate, causing the snoring sound.
Sometimes the congestion may be due to allergic rhinitis, where pollen, dust or fur causes inflammation in the nasal passages. In these cases, antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays can help.
But for thousands with severe nasal congestion, currently, the only option is surgery. This is usually suggested when there is a narrowing of the nasal valve, an area made up of three parts.
These include the septum — the structure in the middle of the nose that separates the nostrils — the lateral wall (the outer part of the nostrils) and the turbinates, finger-shaped strips of tissue in the nasal passages that warm air as it enters the nasal cavity.
Around 30,000 NHS patients a year have a septoplasty — an operation to straighten a bent or misshapen septum. But the procedure is not always successful and can cause complications, such as a reduced sense of smell.
Thousands more undergo surgery on turbinates that have become inflamed through infection. Surgeons trim the swollen tissue, but this can result in scar tissue that can cause a blockage as serious as the original one.
Pillow talk: Nasal congestion is major cause of snoring as it forces people to mouth-breathe
DID YOU KNOW?
A study has, for the first time, linked a poor sense of smell with exposure to pesticides.
Michigan State University researchers followed up on more than 11,000 farmers for 20 years and found those who had spilt large quantities of pesticides on their body were 50 per cent more likely to have an impaired or complete loss of smell. It’s thought pesticides may damage the lining of the nasal cavity.
Researchers, writing in Environmental Health Perspectives, said those with a poor sense of smell are more likely to die early, so a better understanding of the causes is vital.
Nasal strips offer a surgery-free option for those with nasal congestion. These sticky plasters prop open the nasal passages but won’t work for all.
The hot probe, already approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, could be a more effective, one-off treatment. The patient is firstly given a local anaesthetic.
The surgeon then inserts a probe into the nostril, attached to a small, portable generator that creates the radiofrequency waves needed to heat the tip to 60c. A separate tube with a tiny camera on the end is also inserted so the surgeon can monitor it.
The hot probe is pressed against the inflamed tissue for a few seconds. Over the following weeks, the tissue shrinks as the inflammation dies down — clearing the blockage.
Some patients may need painkillers for a few days afterwards.
A study by researchers at Witten/Herdecke University in Germany, published last month in the European Archives of Oto‑Rhino-Laryngology, found that all 31 patients with deviated septums and similar blockages who were treated with the Vivaer saw improvements in nasal air flow and reduced snoring.
It’s hoped the probe could be available in the UK by 2021.
Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, says the device may be beneficial to snorers with nasal obstruction — but not the millions with sleep apnoea, when muscles around the airways collapse during sleep.