UCSF Pediatric Focus

Using Magnets to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea

First-in-human study of feasibility and safety of using magnets as alternative therapy to CPAP

A novel magnetic device to treat patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) could offer an important alternative treatment for people who have moderate to severe OSA. This new technology was developed by Michael R. Harrison, MD – professor emeritus of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and director emeritus of the UCSF Fetal Treatment Center. Jolie Chang, MD, a surgeon and assistant professor of Otolaryngology at UCSF, performed the first-of-its-kind neck surgery to implant the device.

Magnap Treatment for Sleep Apnea

OSA is characterized by repeated upper airway obstruction when the tongue muscle relaxes during sleep, resulting in possible significant adverse effects on health and daily function, including daytime sleepiness, decreased quality of life, motor vehicle accidents and serious cardiovascular illness. Current OSA treatments include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a non-invasive therapy involving a small machine that supplies air pressure through a face mask. While this therapy is effective, many patients cannot tolerate it or report problems such as ill-fitting masks, dry nose and mouth, and claustrophobia.

In response, Harrison’s team in the UCSF Pediatric Device Consortium, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) funded think tank for pediatric medical device development, developed Magnap (Magnetic Apnea Prevention). Harnessing magnetic force as medical therapy is a concept Harrison originally used to treat children with sunken chest or pectus excavatum, using the Magnetic Mini-Mover Procedure.

For the Magnap procedure:

  • Surgeons implant a dime-sized rare earth magnet with a ferromagnetic backplate encased in titanium on the hyoid bone in the neck via a minimally invasive outpatient surgery.
  • Clinicians then fit the patient with a custom, removable external neck brace containing a second magnet, which patients wear during sleep.
  • The brace’s magnet pulls the internal magnet on the hyoid bone forward with sufficient force to keep the airway open, thereby preventing airway collapse.

Magnap is currently being tested in a clinical trial at UCSF, Magnetic Apnea Prevention (MAGNAP) Device to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea: First-in-Human Study of Feasibility and Safety.