If you've had a spinal cord injury and you use a mechanical ventilator, you may benefit from diaphragm pacing. Diaphragm pacing can help improve your breathing and potentially stop 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. This causes your diaphragm to contract so that air is pulled into your lungs. It helps you breathe in a more normal fashion.

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

Diaphragm pacing involves implanting four electrodes into your diaphragm muscle and a fifth electrode just below the skin near the other electrodes. The electrodes are then connected to an external stimulator. The stimulator gives ongoing electrical impulses to the electrodes, causing your diaphragm to contract and help you to breathe.

Breathing Freely

Diaphragm pacing for spinal cord injury care at Mayo Clinic

Feb. 16, 2018
  1. Townsend CM Jr, et al. Surgery of the diaphragm: A deductive approach. In: Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2017. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  2. Marion DW. Pacing the diaphragm: Patient selection, evaluation, implantation, and complications. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Jan. 23, 2018.
  3. Baker GS. Spinal cord injuries. Minnesota Medicine. 1949;32:1094.
  4. Provider profile. CARF International. http://www.carf.org/providerProfile.aspx?cid=8020. Accessed Jan. 17, 2018.
  5. Riggin EA. AllscriptsEPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 31, 2017.

Diaphragm pacing for spinal cord injury