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Use of diaphragm pacing in the management of acute cervical spinal cord injury

Kerwin, Andrew J. MD; Yorkgitis, Brian K. DO; Ebler, David J. MD; Madbak, Firas G. MD; Hsu, Albert T. MD; Crandall, Marie L. MD, MPH

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: November 2018 - Volume 85 - Issue 5 - p 928–931
doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000002023

BACKGROUND Cervical spinal cord injury (CSCI) is devastating. Respiratory failure, ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), sepsis, and death frequently occur. Case reports of diaphragm pacing system (DPS) have suggested earlier liberation from mechanical ventilation in acute CSCI patients. We hypothesized DPS implantation would decrease VAP and facilitate liberation from ventilation.

METHODS We performed a retrospective review of patients with acute CSCI managed at a single Level 1 trauma center between January 2005 and May 2017. Routine demographics were collected. Patients underwent propensity matching based on age, injury severity score, ventilator days, hospital length of stay, and need for tracheostomy. Outcome measures included hospital length of stay, intensive care unit length of stay, ventilator days (vent days), incidence of VAP, and mortality. Bivariate and multivariate logistic and linear regression statistics were performed using STATA Version 10.

RESULTS Between July 2011 and May 2017, all patients with acute CSCI were evaluated for DPS implantation. Forty patients who had laparoscopic DPS implantation (DPS) were matched to 61 who did not (NO DPS). Median time to liberation after DPS implantation was 7 days. Hospital length of stay and mortality were significantly lower on bivariate analysis in DPS patients. Diaphragm pacing system placement was not found to be associated with statistically significant differences in these outcomes on risk-adjusted multivariate models that included admission year.

CONCLUSIONS Diaphragm pacing system implantation in patients with acute CSCI can be one part of a comprehensive critical care program to improve outcomes. However, the association of DPS with the marked improved mortality seen on bivariate analysis may be due solely to improvements in critical care throughout the study period. Further studies to define the benefits of DPS implantation are needed.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Therapeutic, level IV.

From the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida.

Submitted: February 12, 2018, Revised: May 20, 2018, Accepted: June 23, 2018, Published online: July 6, 2018.

Address for reprints: Andrew J Kerwin, MD, Division of Acute Care Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine- Jacksonville, 655 W 8th St, Jacksonville, FL 32209; email:

This study was presented at the 48th Annual Meeting of the Western Trauma Association, March 2, 2018, Whistler, British Columbia.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no disclosures on funding.

© 2018 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.