How to Handle Breathing Difficulties in Spinal Muscular Atrophy

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by Wendy Henderson |

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Many children with type 1 and type 2 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) suffer from breathing difficulties. This is due to the weakened muscles in the rib cage and diaphragm. The muscles in the rib cage, in particular, are inefficient in many SMA type 1 and type 2 patients.

MORE: Breathing difficulties linked to rib cage muscles problem in children with SMA

As the disease progresses, these muscles become more atrophied and the child may require assistance breathing.

As well as needing assisted ventilation, children may also need a cough assist machine which can help to shift excess mucus from the lungs—a necessary procedure to help avoid dangerous lung infections.

There are different ways that a child with SMA can be helped to breathe, depending on the severity of their condition. A ventilator with either nasal tubes or a mask over the nose and mouth may be used to help with breathing periodically, a BiPAP machine can sense when a child is not breathing correctly and automatically kicks in when the child needs supplementary oxygen and also can help synchronize their breathing cycle. In extreme cases, or when the child has a cold or respiratory infection, a tracheostomy may be necessary. Find out more about breathing difficulties in SMA children. 

MORE: Find out about 11 function and mobility aids for children with SMA.

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