Long-Term Ventilatory Support by Diaphragm Pacing in Quadriplegia

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Thirty-seven quadriplegic patients with respiratory paralysis were treated by electrical stimulation of the phrenic nerves to pace the diaphragm. Full-time ventilatory support by diaphragm pacing was accomplished in 13 patients. At least half-time support was achieved in 10 others. There were two deaths unrelated to pacing in these two groups. Fourteen patients could not be paced satisfactorily, and 8 of these patients died, most of them from respiratory infections. The average time the 13 patients on total ventilatory support have had bilateral diaphragm pacemakers is 26 months. The longest is 60 months. Many of these patients are out of the hospital and several are in school or working. Injury to the phrenic nerves either by the initial trauma to the cervical cord or during operation for implantation of the nerve cuff was the most significant complication. Nerve damage from prolonged electrical stimulation has not been a problem thus far. A description of the pacemaker, the technique of its implantation, and the pacing schedule are reported.

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