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J Rehabil Res Dev. 1996 Apr;33(2):123-32.

Electrical stimulation to restore respiration.

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MetroHealth Medical Center, Department of Medicine, Cleveland, OH 44109, USA.


Electrical stimulation has been used for over 25 years to restore breathing to patients with high quadriplegia causing respiratory paralysis and patients with central alveolar hypoventilation. Three groups have developed electrical pacing systems for long-term support of respiration in humans. These systems consist of electrodes implanted on the phrenic nerves, connected by leads to a stimulator implanted under the skin, and powered and controlled from a battery-powered transmitter outside the body. The systems differ principally in the electrode design and stimulation waveform. Approximately 1,000 people worldwide have received one of the three phrenic pacing devices, most with strongly positive results: reduced risk of tracheal problems and chronic infection, the ability to speak and smell more normally, reduced risk of accidental interruption of respiration, greater independence, and reduced costs and time for ventilatory care. For patients with partial lesions of the phrenic nerves, intercostal muscle stimulation may supplement respiration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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