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U.S. News & World Report Neurology

Phrenic Nerve Pacer

What Is A Phrenic Nerve Pacer?

A phrenic nerve pacer is an implantable device that provides ventilatory support for people who have lost the ability to breathe independently due to a condition (e.g., sleep apnea) or injury (e.g., spinal cord injury).

An electrode and receiver are surgically implanted (electrode placed on the phrenic nerve and receiver just under the skin) and external antenna and transmitter are worn on top of the skin.

How Does It Work?

Radiofrequency energy from the transmitter is converted into pulses and sent to the electrode, causing the diaphragm to contract. The result is a breathing pattern that’s more natural than a mechanical ventilator.

Benefits Over Mechanical Ventilator

Some people who have a high spinal cord injury (damage to phrenic nerve) will require a ventilator to help them breathe.

Those who don't want to be dependent on a ventilator have the option of a surgically implanted phrenic nerve simulator.

Advantages of phrenic nerve stimulators over mechanical ventilators:

  • Allows normal speech and breathing
  • Makes eating and drinking easier
  • Small and unobtrusive
  • Implants are made to last a lifetime
  • Cost effective

Furthermore, it is reported that there is less chance of infection with a phrenic nerve stimulator.

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