Use of diaphragm pacing in the management of acute cervical spinal cord injury

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2018 Nov;85(5):928-931. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002023.


Background: Cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) is devastating. Respiratory failure, ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), sepsis, and death frequently occur. Case reports of diaphragm pacing system (DPS) have suggested earlier liberation from mechanical ventilation in acute CSCI patients. We hypothesized DPS implantation would decrease VAP and facilitate liberation from ventilation.

Methods: We performed a retrospective review of patients with acute CSCI managed at a single Level 1 trauma center between January 2005 and May 2017. Routine demographics were collected. Patients underwent propensity matching based on age, injury severity score, ventilator days, hospital length of stay, and need for tracheostomy. Outcome measures included hospital length of stay, intensive care unit length of stay, ventilator days (vent days), incidence of VAP, and mortality. Bivariate and multivariate logistic and linear regression statistics were performed using STATA Version 10.

Results: Between July 2011 and May 2017, all patients with acute CSCI were evaluated for DPS implantation. Forty patients who had laparoscopic DPS implantation (DPS) were matched to 61 who did not (NO DPS). Median time to liberation after DPS implantation was 7 days. Hospital length of stay and mortality were significantly lower on bivariate analysis in DPS patients. Diaphragm pacing system placement was not found to be associated with statistically significant differences in these outcomes on risk-adjusted multivariate models that included admission year.

Conclusions: Diaphragm pacing system implantation in patients with acute CSCI can be one part of a comprehensive critical care program to improve outcomes. However, the association of DPS with the marked improved mortality seen on bivariate analysis may be due solely to improvements in critical care throughout the study period. Further studies to define the benefits of DPS implantation are needed.

Level of evidence: Therapeutic, level IV.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Diaphragm*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / etiology
  • Pneumonia, Ventilator-Associated / prevention & control*
  • Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / etiology
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Survival Rate
  • Young Adult