Mechanical contribution of expiratory muscles to pressure generation during spinal cord stimulation

A. F. DiMarco, J. R. Romaniuk, K. E. Kowalski, G. Supinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Lower thoracic spinal cord stimulation (SCS) results in the generation of large positive airway pressures (Paw) and may be a useful method of restoring cough in patients with spinal cord injury. The purpose of the present study was to assess the mechanical contribution of individual respiratory muscles to pressure generation during SCS. In anesthetized dogs, SCS was applied at different spinal cord levels by using a 15-lead multicontact electrode before and after sequential ablation of the external and internal obliques, transversus abdominis (TA), rectus abdominis, and internal intercostal muscles. Paw was monitored after tracheal occlusion. SCS at the T9 spinal cord level resulted in maximal changes in Paw (60 ± 3 cmH2O). Section of the oblique muscles resulted in a fall in Paw to 29 ± 2 cmH2O. After subsequent section of the rectus abdominis and TA, Paw fell to 25 ± 2 and 12 ± 1 cmH2O respectively. There was a small remaining Paw (4 ± 1 cmH2O) after section of the internal intercostal nerves. Stimulation with a two-electrode lead system (T9 + T13) resulted in significantly greater pressure generation compared with a single-electrode lead due to increased contributions from the obliques and transversus muscles. In a separate group of animals, Paw generation was monitored after section of the abdominal muscles and again after section of the external intercostal and levator costae muscles. These studies demonstrated that inspiratory intercostal muscle stimulation resulted in only a small opposing inspiratory action (≤3 cmH2O). We conclude that, during SCS, 1) contraction of the obliques and TA muscles makes the largest contribution to changes in Paw, and 2) stimulation with a two-electrode lead system results in more complete abdominal muscle activation and enhanced mechanical actions of the obliques and transversus muscles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1433-1439
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1999


  • Airway pressure
  • Dogs
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Mechanical action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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