What is a diaphragm?
Your diaphragm is a thin, flat muscle that lies between your abdomen (stomach, liver, etc.) and your thorax (heart, lungs). This muscle helps your lungs to fill with air.
What is a diaphragm injury?
Your diaphragm may be injured by a wound such as a stab or gunshot wound or a blunt injury such as a high fall or a motor vehicle crash. Because your diaphragm lies between your thorax and abdomen, an injury to your diaphragm can affect many systems in your body. Your heart, breathing, and stomach can all be affected.
What are the signs and symptoms?
- Early symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in the diaphragm area.
- Thoracic signs are rib fractures or unusual expansions or contractions around the ribs (called “flail chest”).
- Abdominal signs are tenderness, distention.
How is it Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a diaphragm injury can be very hard. Sometimes, other injuries around it may hide it. Specific tests may be done to view the diaphragm. These may include:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Exploratory surgery
How is it treated?
Surgery is the main treatment. An injured diaphragm can affect breathing and heart functions. Based on your injury, a chest tube may be placed. This tube drains fluid and blood from your chest. Before surgery, you may have a nasogastric (NG) tube placed. This goes into your stomach and helps release any gas or liquid. It also helps find out the type of injury.
What are the complications?
Complications include infection and pneumonia. You will be carefully checked for any changes in pain, temperature, and breathing.
What will my hospital stay be like?
You will receive pain medicine. Coughing and deep breathing are very important to prevent pneumonia. Blood tests will be done daily.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/05/2010
Copyright © 02/05/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6905
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