Patients help test device to ease motor neurone symptoms

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PATIENTS in Sheffield are taking part in a major trial of an innovative device which aims to help ease the symptoms of motor neurone disease.

The £1.3m study, being led by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals in partnership with the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, uses a diaphragm pacing system to help increase the strength of patients’ main breathing muscle.

Small electrodes are implanted into the diaphragm, while a small external stimulator delivers electric pulses, strengthening the muscle.

Patients carry a small, box-like device that enables them to switch the pulses on and off.

More than 100 people will take part in the trial, at five different sites around the country. Half will receive the diaphragm pacing system and half the standard treatment.

After 12 months, patients with the device can choose to stay with it or revert to standard treatment.

Dr Christopher McDermott, who is leading the study, said: “It’s excellent that we’ve been able to gain such generous funding to trial diaphragm pacing in a large-scale study.

“The technique has shown promise in our pilot series, and so we are pleased to have the opportunity to fully assess the devices and establish if they can provide benefits to patients. We hope, if proven to be of benefit, that diaphragm pacing could become standard treatment in the NHS.”