Comparison of transthoracic impedance/heart rate monitoring and pulse oximetry for patients using diaphragm pacemakers

Mirella Marzocchi, Robert T. Brouillette*, Debra E Weese-Mayer, Anna S. Morrow, Linda P. Conway

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Patients using diaphragm pacemakers have several respiratory‐related problems placing them at high risk for death during sleep, including central hypoventilation, abnormal arousal responses, upper airway and/or tracheostomy obstruction, and, in the case of high quadriplegia, lack of motor response to airway obstruction. The recent death from airway obstruction of a patient using diaphragm pacemakers prompted us to re‐evaluate both the need for home monitoring and the type of monitor to prescribe. We compared the performance of a transthoracic impedance/heart rate (TI/HR) monitor with that of a pulse oximeter in six patients with central hypoventilation syndrome whose treatment included diaphragm pacing. Polygraphic recordings of airflow, ECG, Sa0 2, transthoracic impedance, heart rate, and breath detection were obtained during brief tracheostomy occlusion during patient sleep. Although none of 13 occlusions was detected by the TI/HR monitor, the pulse oximeter identified 13 of 13 occlusions. Three reasons for TI/HR monitor failure included 1) the breath detection circuit consistently registered a breath with each obstructed, paced diaphragmatic contraction; 2) bradycardia did not occur during any airway occlusion; and 3) pacemaker stimuli were misinterpreted as additional heart beats, increasing apparent heart rate. Thus, pulse oximetry, but not TI/HR monitoring, can detect life‐threatening airway obstruction in children using diaphragm pacemakers. Pediatr Pulmonol 1990; 8:29‐32.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-32
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric Pulmonology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990


  • home monitoring
  • oximetry
  • phrenic nerve pacing
  • polygraphic recordings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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