Date of Award

Winter 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Mesut Sahin


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by the retraction of the tongue to occlude the upper airway (UAW). Electrical stimulation of the tongue protrudor and retractor muscle has been demonstrated as an effective technique to alleviate UAW obstructions and is considered to be a potential treatment for OSA. Recent studies have shown that selective stimulation of the hypoglossal nerve (HG) to activate tongue muscles using a single implantable device presents an attractive approach for treating OSA. In this study, the functional outcome of selective hypoglossal nerve stimulation with a multi-contact peripheral nerve electrode was studied by imaging the airway in anesthetized beagles. A pulse train of varying amplitude was applied through each one of the tripolar contact sets of the nerve electrode while the pharyngeal images were acquired via a video grabber into a computer. For the open mouth positions, the tongue activation patterns were also viewed and videotaped with a digital camcorder through the mouth. The percent dilation of the pharyngeal opening for each contact was calculated. The images show that stimulations delivered through the electrode contacts placed around the HG nerve trunk can generate several different activation patterns of the tongue muscles. Some of these patterns translate into a substantial increase in the oropharyngeal size, while others do not have any effect on the pharynx. The activation patterns vary as a function of the head position and the lower jaw. These results suggest that selective nerve stimulation can be a useful technique to maximize the effects of HG nerve stimulation in removing the obstructions in sleep apnea patients.