Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, US, will soon start implanting a new device to help patients with upper spinal cord injuries breathe independently.
The device, called the NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2008 and is designed to help slow respiratory decline in patients with upper spinal cord injuries.
Manufactured by Ohio's Synapse Biomedical, the NeuRx system includes four electrodes that are implanted directly into the diaphragm.
An external control device is used to send electrical signals for inducing impulses from the phrenic nerve, which runs from the spine to the diaphragm.
When these signals reach the electrodes in the diaphragm, the muscle is stimulated to expand and contract, resulting in normal breathing.
With the NeuRX device, the vocal cords of patients are not bypassed and they can talk.