Your diaphragm is a muscle below your heart and lungs that separates the chest organs from the belly organs and helps you breathe. When you inhale, your diaphragm pushes down and allows your lungs to expand and take in air. When you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward. This makes your lungs smaller, which forces air out of them.
The tightening and relaxing of your diaphragm are controlled by your phrenic nerve, which is attached to the neck (cervical) area of your spine. Typically, diaphragm paralysis or weakness is caused by pressure on your phrenic nerve or damage to the nerve — rather than an injury to the diaphragm itself.
Diaphragm paralysis can happen on one side of the muscle (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).
Phrenic nerve damage can be caused by:
- Birth defects or injuries to the phrenic nerve during delivery
- Cervical spine disorders, including arthritis
- Neuromuscular diseases
- Spinal cord injuries
People with unilateral diaphragmatic paralysis may not notice any symptoms. Some may notice breathing difficulties only during activity or when they're lying down.
Those with bilateral paralysis have more noticeable symptoms, including:
- Frequent upper-airway and lung infections, such as pneumonia
- Severe shortness of breath
- Sleep difficulties
Newborns with bilateral diaphragmatic paralysis need immediate attention and usually require a ventilator to help them breathe.
At the University of Miami Health System, you work with specialists who are experts in diagnosing and treating diaphragmatic paralysis and weakness. You get personal attention and treatment that’s customized to your needs. We develop a plan to help you feel better as soon as possible.
Why Choose UHealth?
Fast, accurate diagnosis. We offer the latest testing in our technologically advanced pulmonary function labs, including advanced diagnostic imaging. Our experienced teams and advanced equipment give us the highest quality results for a correct diagnosis.
A comprehensive, team approach to care. You benefit from the expertise of specialists in thoracic surgery, lung care, cancer, spine health, and more. They work as a team to treat the cause of diaphragmatic paralysis and give you comprehensive care. We use the least invasive approach to help you breathe easier and feel better.
Get the latest treatment breakthroughs sooner. As an academic medical center, we offer the latest, proven approaches backed by the leading-edge research of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Our medical and academic researchers are continually seeking better ways to find and treat airway and lung problems with ongoing research and clinical trials in asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, and more.
Leaders in robotic surgery treatment. We have some of the world’s most experienced robotic surgeons for minimally invasive procedures. We were the first academic medical center in the world to get the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system. Our surgeons have completed more than 5,000 robotic surgeries — procedures that offer less pain and scarring and a faster recovery.
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