Diaphragmatic Hernia

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscular barrier between the chest and abdominal cavities. It separates your heart and lungs from your abdominal organs (stomach, intestine, spleen, and liver). A diaphragmatic hernia occurs when one or more of your abdominal organs move upward into your chest through a hole in the diaphragm. This hole is big enough that organs can pass through it and poke into the chest. This can make it difficult to breathe and prevents the lungs from fully developing.

This type of hernia can be present at birth or acquired later in life. Diaphragmatic hernias are rare but serious. It is always a medical emergency and requires prompt surgery to correct.

Herniated diaphgram
Medical Illustration Copyright © 2019 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.

Causes of Diaphragmatic Hernia

The exact cause of diaphragmatic hernias is unknown. Research suggests that a combination of nutrition, environmental factors, and genetic abnormalities can all play a role. However, this condition can also be acquired by adults through an injury. Some possible causes include:

  • Chest or abdominal surgery
  • Blunt injuries from traffic accidents
  • Knife and gunshot wounds
  • Fall injuries

Symptoms of Diaphragmatic Hernia

The severity of symptoms with a diaphragmatic hernia can vary depending on its size, cause, and the organs involved. Some of the more common symptoms include the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Blue discoloration of the skin (cyanosis)
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Bowel sounds in the chest area
  • Diminished or absent breath sounds

Diagnosis of Diaphragmatic Hernia

More than half of all cases are diagnosed before birth. These are usually discovered during prenatal care after an ultrasound. Also, there may be an increased amount of amniotic fluid (the fluid that surrounds and protects the fetus) within the uterus. After birth, your doctor may perform one or more of the following:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Diaphragmatic Hernia

Both congenital and acquired diaphragmatic hernias typically require urgent surgery. Surgery must be performed to remove the abdominal organs from the chest and place them back into the abdomen. Consult with your doctor.

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