Interpreting diaphragmatic movement with bedside imaging, review article

J Crit Care. 2016 Aug;34:56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrc.2016.03.006. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


The diaphragm is the most important muscle of respiration. At equilibrium, the load imposed on the diaphragmatic muscles from transdiaphragmatic pressure balances the force generated by diaphragmatic muscles. However, procedural and nonprocedural thoracic and abdominal conditions may disrupt this equilibrium and impair diaphragmatic function. Diaphragmatic dysfunction is associated with respiratory insufficiency and poor outcome. Therefore, rapid diagnosis and early intervention may be useful. Ultrasound imaging provides quick and accurate bedside assessment of the diaphragm. Various imaging techniques have been suggested, using 2-dimensional and M-mode technology. Diaphragm viewing depends on the degree of robe movement, determined by the angle of incidence of the ultrasound beam and by the direction of probe movement. In this review, we will discuss the function of the diaphragm focusing on clinically important anatomical and physiological properties of the diaphragm. We will review the literature regarding various sonographic techniques for diaphragm assessment. We will also explore the evidence for the role of the tidal displacement of subdiaphragmatic organs as a surrogate for diaphragm movement.

Keywords: Diaphragm; Movement; Subdiaphragmatic displacement; Ultrasound; Weaning.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care
  • Diaphragm / diagnostic imaging
  • Diaphragm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / diagnostic imaging
  • Respiratory Insufficiency / physiopathology*
  • Ultrasonography