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Lung diseases

Paralyzed diaphragm

07/08/2009

Question:

I have been diagnosed with a paralyzed diaphragm due to an auto accident. This happened in Aug. of 2007 and I’m still having breathing problems. I’m seeing a pulmonary doctor in Pittsburgh but I’m not seeing any results. Is there any surgery that will repair my diaphragm so that I can breathe again? I cannot walk up stairs or hills exercise or exert myself. I have never smoked. Can you please advice?

Answer:

In many cases, a unilateral (on one side only) paralyzed diaphragm does not cause symptoms. In some cases, patients may notice shortness of breath with exertion or exercise, especially if they also have underlying lung disease. Treatment options are fairly limited, and are considered only in cases where shortness of breath is extremely limiting. Although the paralyzed diaphragm can not be surgically repaired (the damage is actually the result of nerve damage) directly, surgery (a procedure called "plication") may sometimes be helpful to improve the function of the diaphragm on the functioning side. Success with this procedure varies widely, and it involves significant recovery.

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Response by:

Jennifer  McCallister, MD Jennifer McCallister, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University