If you've had a spinal cord injury and you use a mechanical ventilator, you may benefit from diaphragm pacing to help improve your breathing and remove your dependence on a mechanical ventilator. A diaphragm pacing system is a lightweight, battery-powered electronic pacing system that electrically stimulates your diaphragm muscles and nerves, causing your diaphragm to contract so that air is pulled into your lungs and you can breathe.

About

In diaphragm pacing, doctors perform a minimally invasive procedure to implant four electrodes into your diaphragm muscle and a fifth electrode just below the skin near the other electrodes. Doctors then connect these electrodes to an external stimulator. The stimulator gives ongoing electrical stimulation to the electrodes, causing your diaphragm to contract and helping you to breathe.

After your procedure, you'll need diaphragm conditioning to help you adjust to diaphragm pacing and help your diaphragm function well. In diaphragm conditioning, you transition between using the ventilator and the diaphragm pacing system several times a day for many days to weeks.

Diaphragm pacing may:

  • Reduce or eliminate the time you spend using a ventilator or other assisted breathing devices
  • Help you breathe and speak more naturally
  • Increase your mobility and transportation options
  • Make your activities such as dressing, bathing and transferring easier
  • Decrease your risk of respiratory infections
  • Improve your sense of smell and taste
  • Reduce the need for an external power source and concern about power outages
Mar. 09, 2012