Heart Disease Expert Forum
Lung
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Lung

My mom had triple by-pass surgery in March and still is having difficulty with breathing, after seeing numerous doctor's she just found out that her left lung is not functioning and was told that this does happen after heart surgery and there is no treatment for this, is this true? and also why didn't this show up on any of the chest xrays that she has had?
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Kyty,

Thanks for the post.

Some patients experience left phrenic nerve injury during open heart surgery.  The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm, which is the muscle that contracts to expand the lung.  If this nerve is injured, then the diaphragm may not contract properly, and thus the lung does not expand properly.  A lung that does not expand, does not exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, and thus does not contribute to respiration.  This can lead to difficulty with breathing.

Ther is no treatment that can restore the damaged phrenic nerve.  In extreme cases, a muscle stimulator (similiar to a pacemaker) can be placed to "pace" the diaphragm.  This technique has been used with spinal cord victims.

Improving the mechanics of ventilation by weight loss and aerobic exercise will benefit most people with this disorder.  Abdominal obesity is particularly problematic because the fat pushes up on the lungs, not allowing to expand.

Chest radiographs don't always reveal this condition.  Sometimes an elevation of the diaphragm is present, but not always.  Also, most doctors are not thinking of this condition, as it is rather uncommon.

Hope that helps.  Good luck with your mother.



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