Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - SCU Access Only


Santa Clara University

First Advisor

Unyoung Kim


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes frequent pauses of breathing during an individual’s sleep cycle due to an obstruction of the airway. OSA is a prevalent condition affecting every 1 in 5 adults in the United States over the age of 30.1 Current treatment options include surgical treatments such as tongue suspension, where sutures are inserted into the base of the tongue and then adjusted and tethered to the mandible with the aid of bone screws. This allows the tongue to be suspended to open the airway. Although this method has proven to be an effective and permanent fix for OSA, there are some potential areas of improvement that can be made to the current method regarding the elasticity, migration, adjustability, and removal of the suture. To address these areas, our design project focuses on the design and manufacture of an elastic, self-adjusting silicone tongue suspension suture. Our final design selection of a “Notch Method” aids in eliminating migration of the suture and eliminates the need to attach the suture to the mandible. We created our low cost silicone suture in bulk using a mechanical roller, a heated press, and a vinyl cutter. Biocompatibility testing shows that the suture does not cause complications. Tensile testing showed that the suture had desired elasticity and ductility, while displacement testing confirmed that the suture would be comfortable during everyday movements. Inserting the suture through a pig tongue also confirmed what suture dimensions could feasibly be implanted and then tightened into position within the tongue. With these results, along with future mechanical testing and the presentation of our new proposal design to an E.N.T. surgeon for feedback, our new OSA treatment will be one step closer to being a product on the medical market.

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