Electrical activation of the expiratory muscles to restore cough

A. F. Dimarco, J. R. Romaniuk, G. S. Supinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Many patients with spinal cord injury have paralysis of their expiratory muscles and, consequently, lack an effective cough. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the utility of lower thoracic spinal cord stimulation (SCS) to activate the expiratory muscles. Studies were performed on 15 anesthetized dogs. A quadripolar stimulating electrode (Medtronic Model 3586) was inserted epidurally and on the ventral surface of the lower thoracic spinal cord. Changes in airway pressure, airflow, and internal intercostal and abdominal muscle length were monitored to assess the effects of electrical stimulation. Spinal stimulation applied at the T9-T10 spinal fever provided maximal changes in airway pressure generation in preliminary experiments. All subsequent studies were therefore performed with the electrode positioned at this level. The expiratory muscles were stimulated supramaximally over a wide range of lung volumes which were expressed as the corresponding change in airway pressure. The pressure-generating capacity of the expiratory muscles was evaluated by the change in airway pressure produced by SCS during airway occlusion. Peak expiratory airflow was also monitored following release of occlusion. At FRC, deflation (-10 cm H2O) and inflation (+30 cm H2O), SCS resulted in positive airway pressures of 44 cm H2O ± 4 SE, 28 cm H2O ± 3 SE, and 82 cm H2O ± 7 SE. The relationship between airway pressure expiratory airflow generation and lung volume was linear (slope = 1.34 ± 0.04) over the entire vital capacity range. Our results indicate that: (1) a major portion of the expiratory muscles can be activated reproducibly and in concert by electrical stimulation, and (2) this technique may be a clinically useful method of restoring cough in spinal cord injured patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1466-1471
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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