Health Watch - Technology: Improved Breathing

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This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about technology that improves patients’ lives. Patients with spinal cord injuries may have to rely on technology to keep breathing, but a recent advance allows more natural breathing.

Upper spinal cord injuries interfere with breathing because they interrupt the nerve signal that tells the diaphragm to expand and contract to move air in and out of the lungs. These patients usually have to use mechanical ventilation to force air into the lungs.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center are now using a device that stimulates the diaphragm, allowing more natural breathing. Dr. Michael DiMaio, a UT Southwestern cardiothoracic surgeon, says this more natural breathing slows respiratory decline, gives patients more freedom and doesn’t interfere with speech the way mechanical ventilation does.

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March 2010


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