What Are Disorders of the Diaphragm?

The diaphragm is a muscular barrier between the chest and the abdominal cavity. Disorders of the diaphragm often interfere with breathing. There are a number of disorders that can impact the diaphragm, including:

  • Congenital (present at birth) diaphragmatic hernia (CDH): Before birth, a hole in the diaphragm allows the baby’s digestive organs to move into the chest cavity, reducing the space for the lungs and causing breathing problems.
  • Acquired diaphragmatic hernia (ADH): Blunt trauma, stab wounds or gunshot wounds can cause a hole to develop in the diaphragm that allows the digestive organs to move into the chest cavity and interfere with breathing.
  • Hiatal hernia: This is when part of your stomach pushes through your diaphragm and into the esophagus, leading to acid reflux.
  • Diaphragmatic tumor: Tumors that begin in the diaphragm are rare and often benign (noncancerous). Tumors can also appear in the diaphragm after metastasizing (spreading) from the lungs or liver.
  • Paralysis of the diaphragm: When the phrenic nerve is injured, one side or both sides of the diaphragm can become paralyzed, compromising lung function.