aul Younan was making choking sounds as he slept. Though he thought he was sleeping through the night, the 33-year-old woke up exhausted each morning. The diagnosis: obstructive sleep apnea.
His airway was being blocked when tissue in his throat collapsed. The potentially life-threatening problem is a result of a narrowed airway and flabby tissue in the throat caused by obesity, hormones or other factors.
None of the treatments were appealing: laser scarring or surgical removal of the tissue, or wearing a bulky air mask as he slept. Then Younan heard that the Pillar Procedure, approved by the FDA this year, might work for him.
Under local anesthesia, tiny implants are put in the palate to prevent collapse. "It's fascinating technology," says Tucker Woodson, an otolaryngologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who has used the Pillar for some of his patients.