Helping Spinal Injury Patients Breathe Easier
"It's wonderful. There's nothing like this in the world," Conlan says. "When I was on the vent, I'd have to wait for it to give me a breath before I could talk. Now I don't."
Onders says he would like to test the device in at least five more patients and then seek FDA approval.
Down the road, Triolo says, doctors will call on many branches of science to help patients with spinal cord injuries. Researchers currently are trying to find out how to regrow damaged nerves, for instance, and movement devices similar to the breathing stimulator are being developed to help patients cope with the effects of their paralysis.
Investigators say they hope that eventually, patients will be able to use more than one device at the same time.
Until such time, what should doctors and their patients with spinal cord injuries do?
"I advise my patients to hope for the best but prepare for the worst," David Yu, MD, tells WebMD. Patients can hope for a cure, but one may not become available in their lifetimes, says Yu, an FES Center investigator and chief of the spinal cord injury service at Cleveland's MetroHealth Medical Center. That's why patients should be encouraged to pursue the technology available today that might be able to improve what they can do, he says.
"In terms of the FDA-approved devices, I recommend that all patients that could benefit should be introduced to them, so they can make an informed decision," he tells WebMD.