Background: Cervical spinal cord injury can result in catastrophic respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation with high morbidity, mortality, and cost. Diaphragm pacing was developed to replace/decrease mechanical ventilation. We report the largest long-term results in traumatic cervical spinal cord injury.
Methods: In this retrospective review of prospective institutional review board protocols, all patients underwent laparoscopic diaphragm mapping and implantation of electrodes for diaphragm strengthening and ventilator weaning.
Results: From 2000 to 2017, 92 patients out of 486 diaphragm pacing implants met the criteria. The age at time of injury ranged from birth to 74 years (average: 27 years). Time on mechanical ventilation was an average of 47.5 months (range, 6 days to 25 years, median = 1.58 years). Eighty-eight percent of patients achieved the minimum of 4 hours of pacing. Fifty-six patients (60.8%) used diaphragm pacing 24 hours a day. Five patients had full recovery of breathing with subsequent diaphragm pacing removal. Median survival was 22.2 years (95% confidence interval: 14.0-not reached) with only 31 deaths. Subgroup analysis revealed that earlier diaphragm pacing implantation leads to greater 24-hour use of diaphragm pacing and no need for any mechanical ventilation.
Conclusion: Diaphragm pacing can successfully decrease the need for mechanical ventilation in traumatic cervical spinal cord injury. Earlier implantation should be considered.
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