Bilateral vocal fold paralysis (BVCP) is a life threatening condition and appears to be a good candidate for therapy using functional electrical stimulation (FES). Developing a working FES system has been technically difficult due to the inaccessible location and small size of the sole arytenoid abductor, the posterior cricoarytenoid (PCA) muscle. A naturally-occurring disease in horses shares many functional and etiological features with BVCP. In this study, the feasibility of FES for equine vocal fold paralysis was explored by testing arytenoid abduction evoked by electrical stimulation of the PCA muscle. Rheobase and chronaxie were determined for innervated PCA muscle. We then tested the hypothesis that direct muscle stimulation can maintain airway patency during strenuous exercise in horses with induced transient conduction block of the laryngeal motor nerve. Six adult horses were instrumented with a single bipolar intra-muscular electrode in the left PCA muscle. Rheobase and chronaxie were within the normal range for innervated muscle at 0.55±0.38 v and 0.38±0.19 ms respectively. Intramuscular stimulation of the PCA muscle significantly improved arytenoid abduction at all levels of exercise intensity and there was no significant difference between the level of abduction achieved with stimulation and control values under moderate loads. The equine larynx may provide a useful model for the study of bilateral fold paralysis.
Cheetham, J., Regner, A., Jarvis, J. C., Priest, D., Sanders, I., Soderholm, L. V., … Ducharme, N. G. (2011). Functional electrical stimulation of intrinsic laryngeal muscles under varying loads in exercising horses. PLoS ONE, 6(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0024258