Health Vantis recently visited a facility that addresses one of the less common yet very difficult to treat conditions. It is phrenic nerve damage. We connected with the administration of the medical facility and are now proud to say that we are happy to help those that may need this type of surgery. There are only a few surgeons in the world that are qualified and experienced to perform phrenic nerve reconstruction.
What is phrenic nerve?
Phrenic nerve is not a household name and many people probably have not heard of it. Yet it keeps us alive as we breathe. The nerve controls the diaphragm muscle, which controls the breathing process. It is in charge of voluntary and involuntary breathing, such as during sleep, by transmitting signals from the brain and spinal cord to the esophagus. We breathe without making much effort and it is all due to the phrenic nerve. Its primary function is to carry out our breathing without us having to think about it or tell our body to do so.
Phrenic nerve is a twin nerve. It begins in the brain and continues down to the first few vertebrae of the spine. Then it splits. The two nerves go down through each side of the body. The right side comes in contact with the windpipe and heart while passing the lungs. The left side also comes in close contact with the heart, with both sides eventually ending up in the diaphragm. Because of its location and proximity to both the lungs and the heart, the nerve can be impacted if there are specific conditions in either of these organs. If either of the nerves is damaged and signals between the brain and diaphragm are interrupted, normal breathing may be prevented.
What are the symptoms of phrenic nerve damage?
People with phrenic nerve injury experience difficulty breathing. Depending on the severity of the injury, they may become winded after climbing a flight of stairs or even tying their shoes. For some, difficulty in breathing while lying down can interfere with sleep, causing insomnia. Symptoms can include lethargy, headaches and blue-tinged lips or fingers.
The most severe impact of phrenic nerve damage is diaphragm paralysis, which prevents the patient from being able to regulate breathing on his or her own.
Why does it get damaged?
The most common causes of phrenic nerve injury are surgical complications and trauma. Phrenic nerve damage may occur after a major operation such as neck dissection for head and neck cancer, lung surgery, coronary bypass surgery, heart valve or other vascular surgery and thymus gland surgery. After the surgery, sometimes scar tissue forms in the neck, which compresses the nerve. Injuries can also result from epidural injections or other types of nerve blocks, as well as chiropractic manipulation of the neck, which can disturb the roots of the spinal nerves.
What can be done?
There has been little hope for individuals suffering from this condition until recently. Treatment options for phrenic nerve injury have been limited to either nonsurgical therapy or diaphragm plication, neither of which attempts to restore normal function to the paralyzed diaphragm.
Advances in nerve decompression and transplant allow reconstructive plastic surgeons to reverse diaphragm paralysis. The techniques used are derived from the procedures commonly used to treat arm or leg paralysis, which have allowed surgeons to restore function to previously paralyzed muscle groups. The doctor either corrects or transplants the nerve in order to restore function.
The rarity of the condition makes it difficult for patients with a phrenic nerve injury to find treatment. The condition is often misdiagnosed or viewed as insufficiently severe enough to require corrective surgery.
Patients who have undergone phrenic nerve surgery report improvements in their physical and respiratory function, and a reversal of the sleeping difficulties related to diaphragm paralysis.
If you or a loved one suffers from phrenic nerve injury, it is likely you have been told by your physician that you must learn to live with this deficit. Well, that is simply not true. Contact Health Vantis to get connected to the world-class board certified surgeon who will help you or your loved one.