Mark S. Bianchi, MD, is a surgeon who specializes in sleep medicine, and nasal and sinus surgery, as well as other ear, nose and throat issues, caring for both adults and children. He provides advanced, minimally invasive surgical treatments for a range of conditions, including nose and sinus issues, obstructive sleep apnea, and health issues due to sinus blockages, with treatments that include balloon sinuplasty. All of these problems affect quality of life, sometimes more than people realize, Dr. Bianchi says. “It turns out that sleep is a very important part of our experience, and if it's not good sleep, then we really suffer during the day.”
An important reason to see a specialist for snoring or other sleep issues is the risk of obstructive sleep apnea, which causes sporadic interruptions in breathing during sleep. A sleep medicine expert can diagnose sleep apnea with a sleep study and prescribe nonsurgical treatment with a CPAP machine, which keeps the airway open through the night. “I get involved with people who may be candidates for surgical intervention,” Dr. Bianchi says. “Occasionally, it’s something simple, like large tonsils or a deviated septum. Then there are more specific surgeries for snoring and sleep apnea.”
Dr. Bianchi provides the latest treatments, including the hypoglossal nerve stimulator, which involves implanting a pacemaker-like device with a sensor that detects when you are breathing, and a stimulator that responds by making the muscles of the tongue protrude or stick out when you breathe in, keeping the airway open. “The stimulator is remarkably successful at treating certain people with sleep apnea,” Dr. Bianchi says. He also performs uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) procedures, which have been used for years to remove excess tissue from the soft palate to open the airway, and is involved in research to make that procedure less invasive and minimize side effects.
An assistant professor of otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Bianchi says he became an ear, nose and throat surgeon for two opposite reasons. One is that he can help many people quickly, almost immediately if they have such simple problems as nosebleeds or clogged ears. The other is that it gives him the opportunity to practice patience and communication in managing complex problems.
“As I get older, I especially like being able to help a person who has such a difficult problem that they set you back on your heels,” he says. “As a doctor, you have to be willing to go through it with them, and in the process of helping them you're also learning about yourself. That aspect tends to be the most gratifying.”