Paralyzed Are Helped to Breathe

MIAMI, Aug. 10 (UPI) — A device that allows paralyzed patients to dispense with traditional ventilators can also give them back their sense of taste and smell, medical experts say.

Paralyzed patients unable to breathe on their own usually are kept alive by mechanical ventilators that pump air into their lungs through a tracheotomy, a hole in their throat, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.

But since that bypasses the mouth and nose, patients have no sense of taste or smell.

A new device called a “diaphragm pacing system” uses electrodes implanted in the chest to electronically stimulate the diaphragm to contract and pull air into the nose and mouth, allowing a paralyzed person to breathe like anyone else.

And along with the almost-normal breathing comes another gift — restoration of taste and smell.

Ashley Hicks, 21, had been unable to smell or taste since she was paralyzed in a shooting nine years ago.

Fitted with the device, she could suddenly smell the fragrance of a hospital bouquet.

“I was speechless,” she said, remembering, “I couldn’t believe how much I missed that.”

The new device can wean paralyzed patients off bulky, noisy, expensive mechanical ventilators.

Patients find they can speak better, face less risk from infections, and are often able to leave expensive hospitals and skilled nursing homes to return to work, study and home, the Herald said.

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