Evaluation of computed tomography in the diagnosis of ultrasound-proven diaphragm dysfunction

Respir Res. 2024 Mar 20;25(1):135. doi: 10.1186/s12931-024-02770-w.


Introduction: Computed tomography (CT) is routinely employed on the evaluation of dyspnea, yet limited data exist on its assessment of diaphragmatic muscle. This study aimed to determine the capability of CT in identifying structural changes in the diaphragm among patients with ultrasound-confirmed diaphragmatic dysfunction.

Methods: Diaphragmatic ultrasounds conducted between 2018 and 2021 at our center in Marseille, France, were retrospectively collected. Diaphragmatic pillars were measured on CT scans at the L1 level and the celiac artery. Additionally, the difference in height between the two diaphragmatic domes in both diaphragmatic dysfunction cases and controls was measured and compared.

Results: A total of 65 patients were included, comprising 24 with diaphragmatic paralysis, 13 with diaphragmatic weakness, and 28 controls. In the case group (paralysis and weakness) with left dysfunctions (n = 24), the CT thickness of the pillars at the level of L1 and the celiac artery was significantly thinner compared with controls (2.0 mm vs. 7.4 mm and 1.8 mm vs. 3.1 mm, p < 0.001 respectively). Significantly different values were observed for paralysis (but not weakness) in the right dysfunction subgroup (n = 15) (2.6 mm vs. 7.4 mm and 2.2 mm vs. 3.8 mm, p < 0.001 respectively, for paralysis vs. controls). Regardless of the side of dysfunction, a significant difference in diaphragmatic height was observed between cases and controls (7.70 cm vs. 1.16 cm and 5.51 cm vs. 1.16 cm, p < 0.001 for right and left dysfunctions, respectively). Threshold values determined through ROC curve analyses for height differences between the two diaphragmatic domes, indicative of paralysis or weakness in the right dysfunctions, were 4.44 cm and 3.51 cm, respectively. Similarly for left dysfunctions, the thresholds were 2.70 cm and 2.48 cm, respectively, demonstrating good performance (aera under the curve of 1.00, 1.00, 0.98, and 0.79, respectively).

Conclusion: In cases of left diaphragmatic dysfunction, as well as in paralysis associated with right diaphragmatic dysfunction, CT revealed thinner pillars. Additionally, a notable increase in the difference in diaphragmatic height demonstrated a strong potential to identify diaphragmatic dysfunction, with specific threshold values.

Keywords: Diaphragm; Musculoskeletal physiological phenomena; Physiology; Respiratory function tests; Respiratory physiological phenomena; Ultrasonography; X-Ray computed tomography.

MeSH terms

  • Diaphragm* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Muscle Weakness*
  • Paralysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography / methods