Diaphragmatic Dysfunction after Thoracic Operations

Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2016 Dec;64(8):621-630. doi: 10.1055/s-0036-1595816. Epub 2016 Nov 26.


The perioperative management of diaphragmatic weakness and phrenic nerve dysfunction is complex, due to varied etiologies and clinical presentations. The factors leading to diaphragmatic weakness may culminate after the operation with transient or persistent respiratory failure. This review discusses diaphragmatic disorders and postoperative respiratory failure caused by unilateral or bilateral diaphragmatic impairment. The origins of neuromuscular weakness involving the diaphragm are diverse, and often lie within the domains of different medical specialties, with only a portion of the condition related to surgical intervention. Consideration of underlying etiologies for any individual patient requires thorough multidisciplinary review. The most important clinical scenarios compounding diaphragmatic weakness, including acute myasthenic states, persistent neuromuscular blockade, and surgical injury to the phrenic nerve or diaphragm, are accessible to attentive surgeons. Awareness of the signs and symptoms of undiagnosed weakness, preoperative pursuit of its diagnosis, knowledge of surgical alternatives to phrenic nerve resection, and cooperative skills in the multidisciplinary management of myasthenia all are crucial to improve patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diaphragm / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Muscle Weakness / physiopathology
  • Muscular Diseases / complications
  • Muscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neuromuscular Blockade / adverse effects
  • Preoperative Care
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / etiology*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / physiopathology
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve Injuries / prevention & control
  • Respiration*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / etiology*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Paralysis / prevention & control
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Thoracic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome