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The diaphragm pacing system, manufactured by Synapse Biomedical, Inc.,may allow for more normal speech patterns and may help spinal cord injury patients to regain the senses of taste and smell, which often diminish with ventilator use. Furthermore, because the procedure allows for easier transport, patients may be able to consider a broader scope of long-term care and housing options and participate more in the community.  Additionally, because the battery life of the pacer lasts up to 125% longer than the average ventilator battery and doesn’t require electricity or specialized transportation arrangements, it can provide significant cost savings.

AbilityLab and Northwestern Memorial Hospital were the first health care organizations in the Midwest to offer this procedure. In clinical trials of this system conducted by Synapse Biomedical, approximately 50 percent of patients achieved full-time pacing and were able to completely eliminate their ventilation units. Additionally, about 60 percent of patients in the trial were able to use the pacing system more than 12 hours per day.

About the Procedure


The procedure requires a minimally invasive outpatient surgical procedure, conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital during which a surgeon implants a neurostimulation device on the diaphragm. Once implanted, the diaphragm-pacing system provides electrical stimulation to the diaphragm muscle and nerves, contracting it to imitate natural breathing. Trained clinicians at AbilityLab train patients and families on the pacing system and monitor ongoing care for the device, which allows air to fill the upper and lower parts of the lungs rather than forcing air in with a mechanical ventilator.

People over the age of 18 with spinal cord injuries are eligible for this procedure.