Dr. Michael DiMaioTo facilitate effortless breathing for paralyzed patients, physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center may soon start implanting a new device. This device, NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System, could enhance breathing in patients who are suffering from upper spinal-cord injuries or other diseases that prevent them from breathing by themselves.

The device is intended to provide patients with more freedom to assist in slowing respiratory decline. Patients who have diseases or injuries that impact breathing muscles like the diaphragm appear to be more prone to lung infections due to their destabilized capability to inhale and exhale adequately.

UT Southwestern University Hospital – St. Paul is claimed to be only one of the two places in Texas and one of 25 in the country presently ready to insert the device, NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System.

Dr. Michael DiMaio, associate professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at UT Southwestern, commented, “Patients who have high-level spinal-cord injuries are unable to breathe efficiently because the nerve signals no longer function.”

The diaphragm divides the abdomen and chest cavity and apparently adds to about 80 percent of respiration. Nerve signals from the brain inform it when to enlarge and shrink. When it expands, pressure within the chest is supposedly decreased and air rushes into the lungs. When the diaphragm loosens up, the lungs and chest wall apparently pushes the air out.

People with spinal-cord injuries that apparently obstruct with breathing are claimed to be usually located on exterior mechanical ventilators. This supports breathing through positive pressure by means of a tube positioned directly into the airway through the front of the throat.

The implantable device which was created by Ohio-based Synapse Biomedical was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008. The NeuRX system apparently comprises of four electrodes that are said to be entrenched directly into the diaphragm. Electrical signals from an external control device could stimulate impulses from the phrenic nerve, which runs from the spine to the diaphragm. Once those signals arrive at the electrodes in the diaphragm, the muscle is alleged to be stimulated to enlarge and shrink. This action is believed to more strongly provoke standard breathing as compared to external ventilators.

Dr. DiMaio mentioned, “This device has some advantages over traditional ventilators. Patients have more mobility because they don’t have an external ventilator to carry around, and the surgery to implant the device is less invasive than previous treatments.”

Dr. Jose Viroslav, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and pulmonary and critical care specialist remarked, “Patients on diaphragmatic pacers have more of a normal ventilation, and their vocal cords are not bypassed therefore they can talk. Breathing with the diaphragm is normal, and if you can do it with implantable electrodes, you are closer to breathing normally with the advantages of speech, less infection, and more mobility.”

The scientists anticipate that the new device could enhance quality of life and reduce occurrences of infections that could impact patients who are on external ventilators. Previous generations of phrenic nerve stimulators were claimed to be included by making a cut in the neck and chest. Electrodes were then positioned directly on the nerve as opposed to the diaphragm.

Patients who are interested in the NeuRX device ought to first check with with their physician to find out whether they might be entitled.