Diaphragmatic paralysis in children: a review of 11 cases

Pediatr Pulmonol. 1994 Sep;18(3):187-93. doi: 10.1002/ppul.1950180311.


We reviewed 11 pediatric cases of diaphragmatic paralysis related to nonspinal-cord injury which were managed in our Intensive Care Unit over the past 10 years. Three cases were secondary to birth trauma, 7 followed surgical procedures for congenital heart disease, and 1 occurred in association with injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The paralysis was bilateral in 8 children. The diagnosis was initially suspected on clinical grounds because of respiratory distress, impossibility of weaning from the ventilator, and paradoxical abdominal respiratory movements. Confirmatory investigations included chest radiography, which revealed elevation of the affected hemidiaphragm, fluoroscopy and ultrasound, both of which demonstrated diminished diaphragmatic movement. Electromyography exhibited a failure of diaphragmatic response to phrenic nerve stimulation in 8 patients. All patients were mechanically ventilated; tracheostomy was required in 5 patients. Physiotherapy was considered a beneficial adjuvant measure. Diaphragmatic plication was attempted without success in 3 children. Seven children recovered without sequelae: Partial respiratory autonomy was achieved after an average of 2.6 months, complete autonomy after an average of 5.4 months. Two patients developed chronic lung disease; one of them remains unresponsive, and one child died following accidental extubation. We conclude that the diagnosis of diaphragmatic paralysis is predominantly clinical, and that the outcome of patients treated by adequate endotracheal mechanical ventilation is usually favorable.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Diaphragm / injuries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / diagnosis
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / therapy
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Respiratory Paralysis / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Paralysis / etiology
  • Respiratory Paralysis / therapy