Breathing Pacemakers

November 14, 2013

Ventilators often have to be used by people with high-level spinal cord injuries (C1-C3). Portable mechanical ventilators, which attach to wheelchairs, are often clumsy, and make it hard to move around freely. But there are other options. Breathing pacemakers, which stimulate the diaphragm to contract and the patient to breathe naturally, are being used with greater frequency by people who were formerly vent-dependent. A system made by Avery Biomedical Devices, which is fully FDA-approved, works by stimulating the phrenic nerves, which cause the diaphragm to contract and the patient to draw in air, as in natural breathing. Mechanical ventilators pump air into the body; a breathing pacemaker prompts the body to take a breath. Breathing pacemakers require intact phrenic nerves, which is why they are most commonly used with higher-level injuries (C1-C3). However, for patients with damaged phrenic nerves, it is often possible to repair the nerves through a graft and then begin using a breathing pacemaker.  The system has internal and external components. Small internal components are surgically implanted; the external simulator is the size of the VHS tape. In addition to improving mobility, breathing pacemakers have an impact on quality of life. On average, people with pacemakers have fewer health issues and longer life spans. nerve grafts are an option for people who can’t otherwise pace due to damaged phrenic nerves. This video tells the story of a child patient in St. Louis who received a breathing pacemaker.


Click the above image to see the video about breathing pacemakers.


Do you have experience with a ventilator? Please share your stories below.


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