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Hypothesis that vagal reinervation of diaphragm could sensitise it to electrical stimulation

Medical Hypotheses
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/s0306-9877(02)00414-0
  • Medicine


Abstract The hypothesis proposed is that restoration of functional capacity of denervated diaphragm may be achieved by reinervating it with vagus nerve. Following trauma, carcinomatose infiltration, and/or large thoracic surgery and neck surgery, phrenic nerve is frequently injured. Reinervation even in the most favourable conditions would not follow and diaphragm would rest permanently denervated and paralysed. This results in unilateral or bilateral paralysis of diaphragm. In principle, intermittent electrical stimulation of the phrenic nerve or diaphragm could elicit regular diaphragm contractions and maintain satisfactory respiration. While this technique could be used in upper motor neurone injury, in lower motor neurone injury and denervated diaphragm, that imposes too high electrical resistance, direct diaphragm pacing is practically impossible. In these cases, long term artificial ventilation is often necessary. Nevertheless, those patients are at high risk to suffer from atelectasis and respiratory infections. We project a hypothesis that reinervation of denervated diaphragm by vagus nerve could re-establishes its sensitivity to intramuscular electrical stimulation and may allow stimulation of the diaphragm by implanted pace-maker electrodes. An appropriate electrical stimulation might then be possible and diaphragm pacing could replace prolonged artificial ventilation in those patients. Restoration of functional capacity of denervated diaphragm could open a perspective for long term diaphragm pacing in patients with irreversible phrenic nerve injury and diaphragm paralysis.

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