Diaphragm Paralysis: Hits Two Friends


SHREWSBURY, N.J. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s often misdiagnosed, and can restrict breathing and reduce lung capacity to that of someone 30 years older,  but a new procedure is now treating a debilitating condition called diaphragm paralysis.

These healthy, active, tennis club teammates-Marita Dowell and Pat Schoenig- began suddenly suffering the same chronic shortness of breath.

“The worst problem that I had with the breathing was that I was uncomfortable 24/7,” said Schoenig.

“It was completely debilitating when the breathing became an issue. I couldn’t take a deep breath, which affected everything,” explained Dowell.

Both women had partial diaphragm paralysis, often resulting from shoulder surgery, as Dowell had, or heart surgery.  Matthew Kaufman, M.D., FACS, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Plastic Surgery Center in New Jersey, developed a new, minimally-invasive way to treat it. Dr. Kaufman reconstructs the phrenic nerve, the nerve that helps control the movement of the diaphragm. He enters the lower neck and implants another nerve taken from the leg.

Dr. Kaufman told Ivanhoe, “The procedure is intended to restore function to a muscle that’s paralyzed. The muscle we’re talking about is the muscle of breathing.” (Read Full Interview)

“It’s a miracle.” said Schoenig. “I can hike now, I can ride a bike, and I don’t lose my breath.”

Dowell detailed, “Now I’m relaxed, I can do things, I can play with the kids.  I can play tennis. I’m thrilled to be hitting a ball. I don’t care if I win.”

Both ladies are now literally breathing easier.

Dr. Kaufman said now his office receives about 300 inquiries annually from those with diaphragm paralysis around the country.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Joey Wahler, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Editor; Taso Stefanidis, Videographer.



TOPIC:           Diaphragm Paralysis Hits Two Friends

REPORT:       MB #4162

BACKGROUND:  The diaphragm is the primary muscle used in the process of inhalation. It is a sheet of muscle in the lower ribs, lying at the base of the chest and located beneath the abdominal muscles. The diaphragm contracts voluntarily, allowing the rib cage and chest cavity to expand, thus forcing airflow into the lungs. The phrenic nerve is a large nerve in the chest that controls the diaphragm, which is vital to breathing. An injury to the phrenic nerve can cause diaphragm paralysis.
(Source: http://www.healthline.com/human-body-maps/diaphragm)

DIAPHRAGM PARALYSIS: Diaphragm paralysis can restrict breathing and reduce lung capacity. It is often misdiagnosed, but people who have this condition, may find it difficult to exercise, play sports or have energy to do the things they use to do. This condition is most often caused by shoulder surgery or heart surgery. There are two main types of diaphragm paralysis. There is unilateral and bilateral diaphragm paralysis. Unilateral diaphragm paralysis is more common than bilateral and bilateral diaphragm paralysis is usually seen in the context of severe muscle weakness. Most patients with unilateral diaphragm paralysis are asymptomatic and require no treatment, but some patients that do intense physical activity or have superimposed pulmonary disease may show symptoms.
(Source: http://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-diaphragmatic-paralysis)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Surgery to reconstruct the phrenic nerve has been the best solution to fix diaphragm paralysis. For the surgery doctors would enter the lower neck and implant another nerve taken from the leg. With this procedure, patients get restored breathing. Dr. Matthew Kaufman, a reconstructive and plastic surgeon in New Jersey was the one who invented the application of standard technique for this problem. His office gets about 300 inquiries annually about diaphragm paralysis.
(Source: Dr. Matthew Kaufman)


Heather O’Neill

732-741-0970 Ext. 158



If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Matthew R. Kaufman, M.D., FACS

Read the entire Q&A