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HealthWatch: Robotic Surgery Helps Sleep Apnea Sufferers

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) - It's estimated 10 to 12 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea,  when the airway is blocked during sleep. The condition can lead to all sorts of health problems. Now a new robotic surgery could be the solution.

Judy Oderwald finally has the energy to read without falling asleep.

"Now when I go to bed, I have to fight to go to sleep. The other times I would hit the pillow and that would be it," described Oderwald.

She was always tired because, like millions of Americans, she suffered from obstructive sleep apnea. Her airway closed up during sleep causing her to snore and stop breathing hundreds of times each night.

A revolutionary new robotic surgery is bringing relief to Judy and many others.

Going through the mouth, tiny robotic tools are used to cut out excess tissue - opening up the patient's airway. The technology lets surgeons operate in a place that, until now, was difficult to reach with human hands.

"This is really an amazing technology that boosts the ability of the surgeon," said Dr. Jeffrey Ahn, an Otolaryngologist. He said the surgery is only for those who have tried everything else from a breathing mask to partial surgeries.

"It's just a new outlook on life," said Oderwald. And her new found energy even helped her lose 30 pounds.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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