COVID-19: New ventilation method saved patient

COVID-19: New ventilation method saved patient

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German COVID-19 patient treated for the first time with diaphragm therapy

If severe COVID-19 courses occur, mechanical ventilation may be required. The risk of death is particularly high during such ventilation. The so-called diaphragm therapy is now supposed to make ventilation safer.

The medical staff at the University Hospital Greifswald successfully tested a new method with which COVID-19 sufferers can be weaned from artificial ventilation with severe courses. A newly developed diaphragm stimulation therapy is used for this.

Diaphragmatic stimulation therapy in COVID-19

As part of an international multicenter study that has not yet been completed, the University Hospital Greifswald is the first clinical facility in Europe to test special diaphragm stimulation therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 sufferers with severe courses using mechanical ventilation.

First success through new treatment method

The first person to be treated with the new method is a woman with severe COVID-19 disease who needed mechanical ventilation. The doctors were unable to wean the affected person off the ventilator. "With the new procedure, we were able to treat this patient, who is over 65 years old and has already spent 38 days on the ventilator, and enabled her to return to independent breathing," says Professor Dr. Ralf Ewert from the University of Greifswald.

The diaphragm suffers from artificial respiration

During normal abdominal breathing, the diaphragm, which lies below the lungs between the chest and abdominal cavity, is contracted. Tension of the diaphragm allows the chest to expand downward, allowing deep abdominal breathing. With artificial respiration, the diaphragm can be weakened by the inactivity to such an extent that the affected person can no longer breathe sufficiently independently and can therefore not be weaned from mechanical ventilation.

Curse and blessing of mechanical ventilation

As the Greifswald University Hospital emphasizes, mechanical ventilation can be life-saving in the event of respiratory failure. However, if ventilation takes too long, it can lead to damage to those affected, especially to the diaphragm, which is not used and atrophied during therapy.

How does diaphragm therapy work?

To prevent this, the new diaphragm stimulation was developed. The heart of the new treatment is the mobile Lungpacer® system, which was developed by a Canadian company. During mechanical ventilation, the device stimulates the weakened diaphragm muscle to support weaning from the ventilator.

Improve mechanical ventilation

The Lungpacer® system is designed in such a way that it can easily be integrated into the routine care of patients who need invasive mechanical ventilation. The system uses a venous catheter to stimulate the diaphragmatic muscles. When weaning, the diaphragm is less weakened, which means that those affected can breathe more quickly on their own. The device can be used not only with COVID-19, but with any disease that requires mechanical ventilation.

The Universitätsmedizin Greifswald is the first hospital in Germany to test this procedure. In the current “RESCUE-3” study, data on safety and effectiveness are collected. Until the end of the investigation, the method is only available in the context of clinical studies. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Universitätsklinikum Greifswald: First COVID-19 Patient in Germany successfully treated with novel Diaphragm Therapy (published: 10.07.2020),

Video: Basics of Mechanical Ventilation for COVID-19 Patients (February 2023).