New device lets quadraplegic man breathe on his own for the first time in five years

High level spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases can paralyze a patient’s ability to breathe. This ability is wholly dependent on an intact nervous system and the diaphragm, a specialized muscle that sits just under the base of our lungs. Paralysis of this muscle as a result of nerve damage requires can result in a lifelong attachment to a ventilator.

On January 8, at Vancouver General Hospital, the team implanted a unique electronic device into a quadriplegic man from Alberta. For the first time in nearly five years, he is now able to breathe on his own. This technology is a first for Canada, with Vancouver the second site in the world to become a trial centre. A critical research grant from the Rick Hansen Foundation and BC Rehab supported the procedure.

  • Dr. Jeremy Road, specialist in Respiratory medicine at Vancouver General Hospital, scientist at VCHRI (Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute) with the Respiratory & Critical Care research group, medical director of the Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program, and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC.

    Dr. John Yee, surgeon in Division of Thoracic Surgery at UBC and VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) and surgical director of the Lung Transplant Program for the province of British Columbia.

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