A device that reduces dependency on mechanical ventilators for individuals with full or partial paralysis has been approved for use by individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Previously used in people with spinal cord injuries, the battery-powered device stimulates the diaphragm via four electrodes implanted in the organ, which then mimics natural breathing. The stimulation is then used to condition the diaphragm, enabling the patient to breathe longer without the need for tracheostomy ventilation, according to the device’s manufacturer, Synapse Biomedical. The device is called the NeuRx Diaphragm Pacing System.

Individuals who have ALS, an incurable neuromuscular disease, experience progressive muscle weakness that eventually leads to paralysis. Sufferers are often forced to rely on mechanical ventilators and need skilled nursing care.

“This is excellent news, indeed, for ALS patients, their caregivers and for healthcare providers in general who treat ALS patients,” said Rup Tandan, M.D., University of Vermont ALS Association Certified Center Medical Director. n