Long-term follow-up of the functional and physiologic results of diaphragm plication in adults with unilateral diaphragm paralysis

Ann Thorac Surg. 2009 Oct;88(4):1112-7. doi: 10.1016/j.athoracsur.2009.05.027.


Background: Patients with lifestyle-limiting dyspnea attributable to unilateral diaphragm paralysis have been shown to experience a decrease in their dyspnea and an improvement in their pulmonary spirometry and functional status with diaphragm plication acutely after surgery. This investigation summarizes these patients' outcomes with long-term follow-up.

Methods: Adult patients undergoing plication of the hemidiaphragm for lifestyle-limiting dyspnea secondary to unilateral diaphragm paralysis were assessed preoperatively, 6 month after surgery and then annually using the Medical Research Council dyspnea score, pulmonary spirometry, activities of daily living questionnaire, and a chest radiograph. Patients with at least 48 months of follow-up were included in this investigation.

Results: Forty-one patients underwent plication of the hemidiaphragm through video-assisted thoracoscopy (30) or thoracotomy (11). Mean follow-up was 57 +/- 10 months. Mean forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume at 1 second, functional residual capacity, and total lung capacity all improved by 19%, 23%, 21%, and 19% (p < 0.005), respectively, when measured 6 months after surgery, as were mean Medical Research Council dyspnea scores (p < 0.0001). These mean values remained constant over the follow-up period. Four patients did not show improvement in their Medical Research Council dyspnea scores nor functional status despite improvements in their pulmonary spirometry values. Two of these patients had a body mass index greater than 35 kg/m(2) and 3 had documented unilateral diaphragm paralysis for at least 4 years before plication.

Conclusions: Plication of the hemidiaphragm produces improvement for the vast majority of patients in pulmonary spirometry, dyspnea, and functional status that endures over long-term follow-up. Patients who are morbidly obese or who have longstanding unilateral diaphragm paralysis may not realize the same benefits of plication.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diaphragm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory Paralysis / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Paralysis / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome