£1.3m study helps patients to breathe

mndBS''Motor Neurone Disease patient Malcolm Chattle.
mndBS''Motor Neurone Disease patient Malcolm Chattle.

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

The £1.3 million study, 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 it. Patients carry a small box 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 a standard treatment, which involves providing the patient with ventilation through a mask.

Malcolm Chattle, of Crookes, Sheffield, was diagnosed with the disease six years ago and had the device implanted as part of a pilot version of the trial in 2009.

The 70-year-old said: “The disease was making it difficult for me to breathe and, as a result, I was having trouble sleeping. Having the device has helped me breathe and improved my quality of life.”

After a year, patients can choose whether to keep the device it or revert to standard treatment.

Dr Christopher McDermott, who is leading the study, said: “The technique has shown promise in our pilot series, so we are pleased to have the opportunity to fully assess the devices and establish if they can provide benefits.

“We hope, if proven to be of benefit, diaphragm pacing could become standard treatment in the NHS.”