Background: Mechanical insufflation-exsufflation (MIE) is an option for secretion mobilization in outpatients with spinal cord injury (SCI) who lack an effective cough and are at high risk for developing pneumonia.
Objective: To describe characteristics of persons with SCI who received MIE devices for outpatient use and compare respiratory hospitalizations before and after MIE prescription.
Design: Retrospective cohort study of all persons who were prescribed MIE devices for outpatient use during 2000 to 2006 by a Veterans Affairs SCI service.
Results: We identified 40 patients with tetraplegia (4.5% of population followed by the SCI service) who were prescribed MIE devices. Of these, 30 (75%) had neurologic levels of C5 or rostral, and 33 (83%) had motor-complete injuries. For chronically injured patients who were prescribed MIE for home use, there was a nonsignificant reduction in respiratory hospitalization rates by 34% (0.314/y before MIE vs 0.208/y after MIE; P = 0.21). A posthoc subgroup analysis showed a significant decline in respiratory hospitalizations for patients with significant tobacco smoking histories.
Conclusions: Mechanical insufflation-exsufflation was typically prescribed for people with motor-complete tetraplegia. Outpatient MIE usage may reduce respiratory hospitalizations in smokers with SCI. Further research of this alternative, noninvasive method is warranted in the outpatient SCI population.