DiMarco, Anthony F, MD

DiMarco-webResearch Statement

The primary interest of our research team is the restoration of respiratory muscle function in individuals with spinal cord injury.

Subjects with mid thoracic and higher level spinal cord injuries suffer from paralysis of their expiratory muscles resulting in their inability to generate an effective cough mechanism. As a consequence, these individuals are prone to the development of respiratory tract infections and atelectasis, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in this patient population. An effective cough system can be implemented through restorative electrical stimulation techniques (spinal cord stimulation) resulting in a reduction in the incidence of respiratory tract infections, reduced need for caregiver support and greater mobility.

Subjects with high cervical spinal cord injury levels suffer from respiratory failure and are dependent upon mechanical ventilation. Utilizing restorative electrical stimulation techniques (diaphragm pacing), more normal breathing can be restored. Pacing systems improve mobility, speech and sense of smell, reduce the incidence of respiratory tract infections, and eliminate the need for mechanical ventilation and attached tubing.

Restoration of respiratory muscle function can significantly improve overall quality of life and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with spinal cord injury.

We are currently pursuing two major areas of research:

  • Ongoing clinical feasibility trials of an implanted Spinal Cord Stimulation system to restore an effective cough mechanism in subjects with cervical and thoracic spinal cord injury.
  • We are also exploring a method of diaphragm and inspiratory intercostal/ accessory muscle activation to provide restoration of more normal breathing in subjects with ventilator-dependent spinal cord injury. This project is in the preliminary stages of animal testing and is not yet available for implementation in human subjects.

Professional Affiliations

  • Investigator, Cleveland FES Center
  • Professor, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
  • CT Physician, Research Department, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, OH

Publications (Select)

  • Kowalski KE, Romaniuk JR, Brose SW, Richmond MA, Kowalski T, DiMarco AF. High frequency spinal cord stimulation-New method to restore cough. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2016 Oct;232:54-6. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2016.07.001. Epub 2016 Jul 6. PubMed PMID: 27395446; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5012955.
  • Kowalski KE, Kowalski T, DiMarco AF. Safety assessment of epidural wire electrodes for cough production in a chronic pig model of spinal cord injury. J Neurosci Methods. 2016 Aug 1;268:98-105. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2016.05.002. Epub 2016 May 7. PubMed PMID: 27168496; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4903884.
  • DiMarco AF, Kowalski KE. Electrical activation to the parasternal intercostal muscles during high-frequency spinal cord stimulation in dogs. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Jan 15;118(2):148-55. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01321.2013. Epub 2014 Oct 23. PubMed PMID: 25342707; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4297776.
  • DiMarco AF, Dawson NV. Risk factors for mortality in spinal cord injury. J Spinal Cord Med. 2014 Nov;37(6):670–671. doi: 10.1179/2045772314Y.0000000208 Pubmed PMID: 24964865
  • Ho CH, Triolo RJ, Elias AL, Kilgore KL, DiMarco AF, Bogie K, Vette AH, Audu ML, Kobetic R, Chang SR, Chan KM, Dukelow S, Bourbeau DJ, Brose SW, Gustafson KJ, Kiss ZHT, Mushahwar VK. Functional electrical stimulation and spinal cord injury. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2014 Aug;25(3):631–654, ix. doi: 10.1016/j.pmr.2014.05.001 Pubmed PMID: 25064792
  • DiMarco AF, Kowalski KE, Hromyak DR, Geertman RT. Long-term follow-up of spinal cord stimulation to restore cough in subjects with spinal cord injury. J Spinal Cord Med. 2014 Jul;37(4):380–388. doi: 10.1179/2045772313Y.0000000152 Pubmed PMID: 24090524
  • Iscoe S, DiMarco A. Ventilatory facilitation in spinal cord injury. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2014 Jan 1;189(1):12–13. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201312-2114ED Pubmed PMID: 24381990
  • DiMarco AF, Kowalski KE. Activation of inspiratory muscles via spinal cord stimulation. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Nov 1;189(2):438–449. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2013.06.001 Pubmed PMID: 2375152
  • Kowalski KE, Hsieh Y-H, Dick TE, DiMarco AF. Diaphragm activation via high frequency spinal cord stimulation in a rodent model of spinal cord injury. Exp Neurol. 2013 Sep;247:689–693. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2013.03.006 Pubmed PMID: 23499833
  • Dimarco AF, Kowalski KE. Spinal pathways mediating phrenic activation during high frequency spinal cord stimulation. Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2013 Mar 1;186(1):1–6. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2012.12.003 Pubmed PMID: 23261850

Research Programs

  • Restoration of Cough

Contact Information

Contact Name: Theresa Fallon
Contact Number: (216) 778-3612
Contact Email: tfallon@metrohealth.org