Assessing Diaphragmatic Function

Respir Care. 2020 Jun;65(6):807-819. doi: 10.4187/respcare.07410.


The diaphragm is vulnerable to injury during mechanical ventilation, and diaphragm dysfunction is both a marker of severity of illness and a predictor of poor patient outcome in the ICU. A combination of factors can result in diaphragm weakness. Both insufficient and excessive diaphragmatic contractile effort can cause atrophy or injury, and recent evidence suggests that targeting an appropriate amount of diaphragm activity during mechanical ventilation has the potential to mitigate diaphragm dysfunction. Several monitoring tools can be used to assess diaphragm activity and function during mechanical ventilation, including pressure-derived parameters, electromyography, and ultrasound. This review details these techniques and presents the rationale for a diaphragm-protective ventilation strategy.

Keywords: diagnostic techniques; diaphragm; diaphragm dysfunction; effort-induced lung injury; intensive care; muscle weakness; respiratory muscles; respiratory system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diaphragm / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Weakness / etiology
  • Muscular Atrophy / etiology
  • Respiration
  • Respiration, Artificial / adverse effects*
  • Ultrasonography