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New device implanted by surgeons help paralyzed patients breathe easier
Date:11/25/2009

DALLAS Nov. 25, 2009 Physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center soon will begin implanting a new device designed to improve breathing in patients with upper spinal-cord injuries or other diseases that keep them from breathing independently.

UT Southwestern University Hospital St. Paul is only one of only two sites in Texas and one of 25 in the country currently equipped to implant the device, called the NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System.

The device is designed to give patients more freedom and to help slow respiratory decline. Patients who have diseases or injuries that affect breathing muscles, such as the diaphragm, are more prone to lung infections because of their weakened ability to inhale and exhale sufficiently, said Dr. Michael DiMaio, associate professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at UT Southwestern.

"Patients who have high-level spinal-cord injuries are unable to breathe efficiently because the nerve signals no longer function," Dr. DiMaio said.

The diaphragm separates the abdomen and chest cavity and contributes to 80 percent of respiration. Nerve signals from the brain tell it when to expand and contract. When it expands, pressure inside the chest is reduced and air rushes into the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, the lungs and chest wall push air out.

People with spinal-cord injuries that interfere with breathing are typically placed on external mechanical ventilators that support breathing through positive pressure via a tube placed directly into the airway through the front of the throat.

The implantable device, manufactured by Ohio-based Synapse Biomedical, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008. The NeuRX system includes four electrodes that are implanted directly into the diaphragm. Electrical signals from an external control device induce impulses from the phrenic nerve, which runs from the spine to the diaphragm. Once those signals reach the electrodes i
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Contact: Katherine Morales
katherine.morales@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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