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Lung diseases

Paralyzed Diaphragm

03/18/2010

Question:

My wife is 29 yrs old. On delivery of our second child which was a c-section her right lung got paralyzed. She did a lot of test to determined that ct, xray,sniff test we did a brontocospy surgery(to take out secretions) her lungs inflated a little but not completely. She got pregnant again with the third child. We consult with the doctors and they said we can go along with the pregnancy so we did. It was hard for her because she experience shortness of breath and swelling of right side. She had a next c-section but this time we had a spinal injection so she was awake for delivery. It`s been month now. The baby is fine but we noticed that the right side of my wife is swelling. The doctor said that is normal but we are scared. Is this correct? Is there any exercise or diet to help with this condition of the right lung being paralyzed?

Answer:

While I cannot comment on the specifics of your wife’s case, pregnancy and C-sections are not usual causes of paralysis of one or both sides of the diaphragm. In general, paralysis of one side of the diaphragm (called unilateral diaphragmatic paralysis) only causes problems when the person is under stress – for example, when exercising, with underlying lung disease or when a pregnant belly is pushing into the chest, etc. Most people lead a normal life unless it is due to a condition that otherwise can be fatal – for example, muscular dystrophy.

While most people with unilateral paralysis do not require treatment, in some cases a surgical procedure can reduce shortness of breath. I do not know of any exercises that will improve the diaphragm function – although maintaining a healthy weight will reduce the stress on your wife’s lungs. Additionally, smoking should be avoided at all costs. I do not know of any diet that improves diaphragm function.

As far as the swelling, I do not know how that would be associated with the diaphragm. I also am unsure where the swelling is. Swelling of half of the body is unusual but is more likely to occur in one of the limbs rather than the chest or belly. Single-sided swelling of a limb can be due to blocked drainage of fluid from that limb, including things as serious as a blood clot. You should discuss you questions with your doctor.

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Response by:

James M O'Brien, Jr, MD James M O'Brien, Jr, MD
Former Associate Professor
Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University