Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a global health problem of increasing prevalence. Effective treatments are available with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and mandibular advancement devices (MAD). However, there is limited long-term adherence to therapy, as CPAP and MAD require permanent usage to avoid recurrence of the symptoms and adverse ill health. Alternative treatments would aid in the treatment cascade to manage OSA effectively whenever standard therapy has been trialled and failed. Hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HNS), an invasive approach to stimulate the pharyngeal dilator muscles of the upper airway during sleep, has been approved for the treatment of OSA by several healthcare systems in recent years. In parallel to the development of HNS, a non-invasive approach has been developed to deliver electrical stimulation. Transcutaneous electrical stimulation in obstructive sleep apnoea (TESLA) uses non-invasive electrical stimulation to increase neuromuscular tone of the upper airway dilator muscles of patients with OSA during sleep. Data from previous feasibility studies and randomised controlled trials have helped to identify a subgroup of patients who are “responders” to this treatment. However, further investigations are required to assess usability, functionality and task accomplishment of this novel treatment. Consideration of these factors in the study design of future clinical trials will strengthen research methodology and protocols, improve patient related outcome measures and assessments, to optimise this emerging therapeutical option. In this review, we will introduce a conceptual framework for the TESLA home programme highlighting qualitative aspects and outcomes.
The transcutaneous approach (TESLA) is currently undergoing a domiciliary feasibility study (TESLA home; NCT03160456, for the protocol see online: http://fp.amegroups.cn/cms/jtd.2019.05.04-1.pdf), involving three-months treatment and assessment.