Surgery to correct overbite may be cure for sleep apnea for some

A local woman's fight against sleep apnea.

TAMPA - More than 18 million American adults suffer sleep apnea.

Susan Yeatts, 51, suffered from sleep apnea all her life - a condition which starves the body of oxygen and can lead to heart conditions, high blood pressure and mood and memory problems

"I've been on a C-pap machine for approximately 20 years."

After years of research, she finally found a doctor in Tampa that could perform a surgery to potentially cure her problem.

Doctor Pat Ricalde of the Florida Craniofacial Institute said, "The surgery was originally done to correct jaw relationship problems.  So people who have an under bite or an overbite would have the surgery done to correct their bite. What we found over the years is these people would also have an improvement in their breathing after their jaw surgery."

So while the procedure is not new, Susan says using it to cure sleep apnea is.  "Very new, especially for females and its very rare for females to go and get themselves diagnosed with sleep apnea, not to mention taking steps to go and get it taken care of."

Susan's preoperative CT scan showed how the placement of her jaw closed off her airways at night. Dr Ricalde broke and re-set her jaw, pulling it forward and therefore allowing her airway to stay open.

Susan says, "As far as I know, it worked perfectly.  I've gone from 76 episodes of sleep apnea in my last sleep study per hour, to 3.3.  Five is considered normal, so that's amazing.  I've probably never even had that since I was a baby."

It's been seven months since the surgery, and Susan said, "I'm losing weight, number one.  Number two, I am sleeping much better.  I have much more energy.  I stay awake at night time instead of falling asleep as soon as the sun goes down."

Since using the procedure for sleep apnea is still relatively new, insurance may not pay for it.  It took a year for Susan to get her insurance company to pay for the surgery, but eventually they did.

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