New cough clinical trials program

In Australia, there are 350 cases of traumatic spinal cord injury each year. More than half of these injuries will be to the cervical area of the spine (neck), leading to a condition called quadriplegia. While quadriplegia is commonly associated with paralysis of all four limbs, paralysis also affects the major respiratory muscles. This reduces cough strength, which can lead to associated respiratory infections and complications.

Dr Bonne Lee and Dr Euan McCaughey, together with Professors Gandevia and Butler and Drs Boswell-Ruys and Hudson, all from NeuRA, are leading the first global trial to investigate the effectiveness of electrical stimulation of the abdominal muscles to reduce respiratory complications in the first 6 weeks of quadriplegia.

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Dr Anna Hudson with a research participant.

The technique being studied, known as Abdominal Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES), has been pioneered at NeuRA, with our researchers showing that it can improve respiratory function in quadriplegia. However, while respiratory function is a predictor of respiratory complications in quadriplegia, the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to reduce respiratory complications remains unknown.

Definitive evidence of the effectiveness of Abdominal FES to reduce respiratory complications in quadriplegia will drive the rapid worldwide translation of this low cost and easily applied technology for this vulnerable patient group. This will lead to decreased morbidity and mortality, reduced rehabilitation time, improved quality of life and large cost savings for global health systems.

Read more about the project here.

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