Diaphragm Pacing and a Model for Respiratory Rehabilitation After Spinal Cord Injury

Author: Kathryn Cavka1, David D Fuller, Geneva Tonuzi, Emily J Fox
1 Brooks Rehabilitation, Jacksonville, Florida (K.C., G.T., E.J.F.); and Department of Physical Therapy, University of Florida, Gainesville (D.D.F., E.J.F.).
Conference/Journal: J Neurol Phys Ther
Date published: 2021 Jul 1
Other: Volume ID: 45 , Issue ID: 3 , Pages: 235-242 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1097/NPT.0000000000000360. , Word Count: 275

Background and purpose:
Cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) can cause severe respiratory impairment. Although mechanical ventilation (MV) is a lifesaving standard of care for these patients, it is associated with diaphragm atrophy and dysfunction. Diaphragm pacing (DP) is a strategy now used acutely to promote MV weaning and to combat the associated negative effects. Initial reports indicate that DP also may promote neuromuscular plasticity and lead to improvements in spontaneous diaphragm activation and respiratory function. These outcomes suggest the need for reevaluation of respiratory rehabilitation for patients with CSCI using DP and consideration of new rehabilitation models for these patients and their unique care needs.

Summary of key points:
This article discusses the rationale for consideration of DP as a rehabilitative strategy, particularly when used in combination with established respiratory interventions. In addition, a model of respiratory rehabilitation and recovery (RRR) is presented, providing a framework for rehabilitation and consideration of DP as an adjuvant rehabilitation approach. The model promotes goals such as respiratory recovery and independence, and lifelong respiratory health, via interdisciplinary care, respiratory training, quantitative measurement, and use of adjuvant strategies such as DP. Application of the model is demonstrated through a description of an inpatient rehabilitation program that applies model components to patients with CSCI who require DP.

Recommendations for clinical practice:
As DP use increases for patients with acute CSCI, so does the need and opportunity to advance rehabilitation approaches for these patients. This perspective article is a critical step in addressing this need and motivating the advancement of rehabilitation strategies for CSCI patients. (See Video Abstract, Supplemental Digital Content, available at: http://links.lww.com/JNPT/A348).

PMID: 34049339 DOI: 10.1097/NPT.0000000000000360