Your Health: Diaphragmatic pacing device for COVID-19 patients

Health Reports

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than half of a million Americans.

The largest analysis of hospitalized patients to date finds that most did not survive after being placed on a ventilator.

Now a device that helped Superman breathe decades ago is working to get COVID patients off these machines and breathing on their own.

It’s Your Health tonight.

Behind these doors, in this operating room in Cleveland, University Hospital’s Raymond Onders was the first surgeon in the US to implant a device called the transaries system to help struggling COVID patients breathe on their own again.

“What we know is when you’re on a ventilator, your diaphragm muscle will atrophy faster than any other muscles. Within 24 hours, you will lost 50% of your diaphragm muscle mass,” said Dr. Raymond Onders, University Hospitals, Cleveland Medical Center.

To keep the muscles from atrophying, electrodes are implemented into the muscle neat the phrenic nerve which controls the diaphragm. A small battery powered external pulse generator stimulates the electrodes and causes the diaphragm to contract.

Dr. Onders had used the diaphragm pacing device on Christopher Reeve after a tragic accident left the Superman accident paralyzed from the neck down. Now in less than 48 hours after implementing the device, some ICU patients are breathing on their own.

“It’s kind of like aggressive physical therapy for that diaphragm, so that once your acute injury is over we can now get you off the ventilator faster,” said Dr. Onders.

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