The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities; it is controlled by the phrenic nerves. Treatment for paralyzed diaphragm is an elective operation so the symptoms need to be bad enough to justify the operation.

Treatment Options

Diaphragmatic plication, a surgical procedure that sews the diaphragm down so it does not compress the lung. It does not help the diaphragm work; it just gets it out of the way.

  • If the patient is not showing symptoms, or the symptoms are mild, and the patient is in otherwise good health, no treatment beyond temporary ventilator support may be necessary

Diaphragm pacemakers may be used in patients who have no phrenic nerve injury but may not be appropriate for patients with ALS or muscular dystrophy. The devices may result in improved respiratory function and lower infection rates

  • Thoracoscopic diaphragm plication may be an option for some patients, resulting in a shorter hospital stays than other techniques
  • In severe cases of bilateral diaphragmatic paralysis, patients may need to be placed permanently on ventilator support which can include treatment with a portable ventilator.
  • Patients who are diagnosed following a sudden onset of symptoms, may have an underlying respiratory condition that benefits from treatment with antiviral medications
  • Prophylactic plication or phrenic nerve repair or grafting may return function to the phrenic nerve
  • A tracheostomy, the surgical formation of an opening in the trachea, helps allow the passage of air. This approach is commonly used for patients with a life threatening disease or a diagnosis of high quadriplegia