What is a diaphragm?
Your diaphragm is a thin, flat muscle that lies
between your abdomen (stomach, liver,
intestines, etc.) and your chest (heart, lungs).
This muscle helps your lungs to fill with air.
What is a diaphragm injury?
Your diaphragm may be injured by a stab or
gunshot wound or a blunt injury such as a fall or
motor vehicle crash. Because your diaphragm
lies between your chest and abdomen, an injury
to your diaphragm can affect many systems in
your body. Your heart, lungs, and stomach can
all be affected. Diaphragmatic injury is often
accompanied by rib fractures, pulmonary
contusion, pneumothorax (air in between the
lung and lung wall), and hemothorax (blood in
between the lung and lung wall).
What are the signs and symptoms?
ξ Chest pain
ξ Shortness of breath
ξ Pain in the chest, diaphragm, or
ξ You may also have bloating and have
nausea and/or vomiting
How is it Diagnosed?
Diagnosing a diaphragm injury can be very hard.
Sometimes, other injuries may hide that there is
a diaphragm injury present. Specific tests may
be done to view the diaphragm. These may
ξ Chest x-ray
ξ CT scan
ξ Exploratory abdominal surgery
How is it treated?
The main treatment is surgery. An injured
diaphragm can affect your breathing and heart
function. Based on your injury a chest tube may
be placed. This tube drains fluid and blood from
your chest, helping to make it easier for you to
breathe. Before surgery you may have a
nasogastric (NG) tube placed. The nasogastric
tube (NG) goes in through your nose and down
into your stomach and helps get rid of any gas or
liquid that may be in your stomach.
What are the complications?
Complications include infection and pneumonia
and paralysis of the diaphragm muscles.
Paralysis of the diaphragm muscle would make it
more difficult to take a deep breath. 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 on an as needed
basis. Please let your nurse know if you are
having pain. Coughing and deep breathing are
very important to prevent pneumonia and to help
your lungs heal. You will be expected to use
your incentive spirometer and to cough & deep
breathe. Blood tests will be done daily.
What should I do if I have problems when I leave the hospital?
Patients can contact the Trauma Clinic at (608) 263-7502
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, this will give you the paging operator. Ask for the resident
on call for your clinic. Leave your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call you
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942 and ask for your clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any
questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical advice.
This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are different,
you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency,
please call 911. Copyright © 11/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by
the Department of Nursing. HF#6905