Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy

For people living with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who cannot tolerate continuous positive airway pressure machines (CPAP), upper airway stimulation therapy may offer an innovative alternative for their needs. Sleep surgeons at UI Health have the expertise to identify the cause of your sleep apnea and determine if upper airway stimulation therapy is the right treatment for you.

We encourage you to schedule a consultation with our team if you suspect you or a loved one suffers from sleep apnea. Patients who want a second opinion on a diagnosis are welcome to meet with our team to get a second opinion before starting any treatment.

Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation is a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea that uses an implant to stimulate the hypoglossal nerve, located under the tongue, to prevent the airway from being blocked.

How Does Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy Work?

Upper airway stimulation therapy involves a surgically implanted system that monitors a person’s unique breathing patterns and provides enough stimulation to contract the throat muscles to keep the airway open.

How it Works

  • While under general anesthesia, sleep surgeons will implant a small stimulator attached to two flexible leads under the skin in the right upper chest.
  • One of the leads continuously monitors a person’s breathing, while the other delivers mild stimulation to key airway muscles to keep the airway open.
  • The system is controlled by a small remote device, which you turn on before you sleep and turn off when you awaken.
  • Your doctor can adjust the level of stimulation needed to keep your airway open.
  • This surgery is done under general anesthesia.
  • Most patients can go home the same or the next day.
  • If needed, the doctor can adjust the level of stimulation needed to keep your airway open.


  • Benefits of this treatment option include:
  • Better quality of life.
  • Significant improvement and reduction in airway obstruction/sleep apnea
  • Increased daytime concentration and functioning
  • Less snoring and sleep disruptions

How do I know if Upper Airway Stimulation Therapy is right for me?

This treatment option may be right for you if the following applies to you:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Diagnosed with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea
  • You have struggled with CPAP treatment
  • No medical conditions that would make any surgery risky

Next Steps

  • First, make an appointment with our Sleep Science Center for diagnosis and to get consulted for sleep apnea treatment options.
  • If it is decided that Upper Airway Stimulation is a good fit for you, then your doctor will discuss the next steps for implantation of the upper airway stimulation device. 
  • One of our Ear, Nose, & Throat surgeons will implant the small device.
  • After the device is implanted, patients will follow up and continue their care with their Sleep Medicine provider.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment with the Sleep Science Center for diagnosis, call 312.996.7708.

To request an appointment with Ear, Nose & Throat, call 312.996.6555.