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Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2007 Sep;32(3):449-56. Epub 2007 Jul 19.

Diaphragm plication in adult patients with diaphragm paralysis leads to long-term improvement of pulmonary function and level of dyspnea.

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Department of Cardio-thoracic Surgery, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



There is still controversy about the feasibility and long-term outcome of surgical treatment of acquired diaphragm paralysis. We analyzed the long-term effects on pulmonary function and level of dyspnea after unilateral or bilateral diaphragm plication.


Between December 1996 and January 2006, 22 consecutive patients underwent diaphragm plication. Before surgery, spirometry in both seated and supine positions and a Baseline Dyspnea Index were assessed. The uncut diaphragm was plicated as tight as possible through a limited lateral thoracotomy. Patients with a follow-up exceeding 1 year (n=17) were invited for repeat spirometry and assessment of changes in dyspnea level using the Transition Dyspnea Index (TDI).


Mean follow-up was 4.9 years (range 1.2-8.7). All spirometry variables showed significant improvement. Mean vital capacity (VC) in seated position improved from 70% (of predicted value) to 79% (p<00.03), and in supine position from 54% to 73% (p=0.03). Forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV1) in supine position improved from 45% to 63% (p=0.02). Before surgery the mean decline in VC changing from seated to supine position was 32%. At follow-up this had improved to 9% (p=0.004). For FEV1 these values were 35% and 17%, respectively (p<0.02). TDI showed remarkable improvement of dyspnea (mean+5.69 points on a scale of -9 to +9).


Diaphragm plication for single- or double-sided diaphragm paralysis provides excellent long-term results. Most patients were severely disabled before surgery but could return to a more or less normal way of life afterwards.

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