Early use of an implantable diaphragm pacing stimulator for a child with severe acute flaccid myelitis—a case report

Travis L. Edmiston, Mathew J. Elrick, Mark L. Kovler, Eric B. Jelin, Raymond P. Onders, Cristina L. Sadowsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) is a recently recognized, polio-like illness of children that can be functionally devastating. Severe cases can lead to ventilatory failure. Incomplete phrenic nerve injuries in other populations has been shown to respond to diaphragmatic stimulation. We therefore proposed an early assessment for incomplete denervation by laparoscopic direct stimulation of the diaphragm and placement of a diaphragmatic pacing system to enhance diaphragm function. Case presentation: A 3 year-old girl presented with AFM with clinically and electrodiagnostically severe involvement of all four limbs and muscles of respiration. Direct stimulation of the diaphragm demonstrated contraction and a diaphragmatic stimulator was placed at 3 weeks post presentation. The patient was immediately able to tolerate short bouts of reduced ventilation settings. Electromyography via the pacing wires demonstrated intact motor units consistent with partial denervation/reinnervation in the left hemidiaphragm, and no motor units in the right hemidiaphragm. At three months, she tolerated 6 h of pacing on pressure support setting. At 5 months she demonstrated larger tidal volumes with active pacing than without. Discussion: In our experience, AFM patients who require chronic ventilator support are rarely able to be weaned. Despite clinical and surface electrodiagnostic evidence of complete phrenic nerve involvement, the patient’s diaphragm responded to direct stimulation. The patient preferred pacing over non-pacing times and showed improved ventilatory ability with pacing as opposed to without, though remains ventilator-dependent. These findings support augmentation of diaphragm function and possible enhanced recovery of spontaneous function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalSpinal Cord Series and Cases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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