Skip to contents
In This Issue:
BWH has become the first hospital in New England to implant a diaphragm pacing system in an ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) patient. Scott Murphy, a 53-year-old father of three from Northbridge, has been using the system for nearly three months now, after having it implanted during an October surgery.
Murphy was diagnosed with ALS in 2004. Over time, many of his muscles have stopped functioning, making it difficult for him to speak, get around or care for himself. Perhaps most concerning, his diaphragm and chest muscles have also started to weaken, making his inevitable progression toward respiratory failure imminent.
Until now, a noisy, intrusive and expensive ventilator had been the only way to help support an ALS patient through the deterioration of the diaphragm and extend his or her life. But a BWH surgical team led by Christopher Ducko, MD, has given Murphy and others a better option in delaying their need for ventilator support with the implantation of the diaphragm pacing system.
"The surgery will improve the quality of my life," said Murphy. "It will allow me to live longer, get around easier, do the things I love and enjoy more time with my family."
During the surgery, small electrodes, which condition the weak diaphragm muscle and improve its function, were implanted in Murphy's diaphragm. Research indicates that this will help Murphy breathe more easily and postpone his need for a ventilator by up to 18 months. Additionally, unlike a ventilator, the diaphragm pacing system is inconspicuous and operates silently. "It doesn't bother me at all," said Murphy. "I don't even know it is on."
Added Ducko: "This innovative diaphragm pacing system is an exciting development in the treatment of ALS. It has the potential to improve and extend the lives of hundreds of ALS patients. It is thrilling that our BWH team is able to bring this new treatment to ALS patients in New England."