Extended use of diaphragm pacing in patients with unilateral or bilateral diaphragm dysfunction: a new therapeutic option

Raymond P Onders, MaryJo Elmo, Cindy Kaplan, Bashar Katirji, Robert Schilz
Surgery 2014, 156 (4): 776-84

BACKGROUND: Diaphragm dysfunction (DD) can cause sleep abnormalities, dyspnea, atelectasis, and respiratory failure. Historical treatments, including positive pressure ventilation or diaphragm plication, may alleviate symptoms but do not restore physiologic diaphragm function. Diaphragm pacing (DP) is approved for spinal cord-injured patients and in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We report a series of DD patients undergoing use of DP outside of these initial indications.

METHODS: This report involves a prospective, nonrandomized, interventional trial under institutional review board approval at a single institution. DP involves laparoscopic motor point mapping with implantation of intramuscular electrodes in each hemidiaphragm. Postoperatively, diaphragm conditioning ensues.

RESULTS: Twenty-seven patients were evaluated; all patients had symptomatic and objective hypoventilation for an average of 36 months of symptoms. Causes included idiopathic (n = 13), chest surgery (n = 5), shoulder surgery or trauma (n = 6), and others (n = 3); 17 had bilateral involvement, 6 had nonstimulable diaphragms and were not implanted, and 21 were implanted. Thirteen (62%) had substantial clinically relevant respiratory improvements. Four ventilator patients were weaned completely. Four had partial improvement, 3 had no improvement, and 1 patient was lost to follow-up for objective analysis.

CONCLUSION: This is the first report of DP being used to treat diverse causes of DD. Eighty-one percent of implanted patients experienced improvements. This success suggests a potential for a wider use of DP and areas for future research.

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