Can Surgical Repair of Phrenic Nerve Injury Improve Breathing?

For such an important nerve, governing such a crucial bodily function, the phrenic nerve doesn’t get a lot of airtime.  Yet, this is the nerve which controls breathing, telling your diaphragm when to expand and contract, as you inhale and exhale.

It’s the phrenic nerve that allows you to carry on in your daily life, without giving a second thought to the act of breathing.  This unconscious function of the body can be seriously impaired when the phrenic nerve is damaged, or impaired in doing its work.

The Phrenic Nerve & The Spine

The phrenic nerve and its function is part of your spinal column.  It travels from your brain through the first few cervical vertebrae at the top of your spine, where the nerve splits in two, continuing down to the diaphragm.  In its travels, it comes in close contact with the heart and lungs.

Impairment of the phrenic nerve can occur when dysfunction is present in either of the heart or lungs, or during surgery to either of these crucial organs.

But spinal cord injury is one of the major causes of phrenic nerve damage.  Specifically, injury in the upper three vertebrae can severely impair breathing.  Trauma to the neck is another cause of damage to the phrenic nerve, as well as surgical trauma, as mentioned above.

Surgical Repair of the Phrenic Nerve

The good news for those encountering difficulty breathing due to phrenic nerve damage is recent research conducted at UCLA.  Researchers have discovered that surgical reconstruction can materially improve breathing, even to the point of patients resuming physical activity.

With between 5 and 10,000 cases of phrenic nerve damage each year, this research has changed the game for a lot of people who have encountered this life-altering physical trauma.

Subjects in the study had all undergone phrenic nerve repair for paralysis of the diaphragm.  Researchers followed a sample of 180 participants for just over 2.5 years.

Of the 180 participants, 89 were shown to see substantial improvement in breathing, following surgical repair.  At Advanced Spine Center, we’re encouraged by the findings of this research project and hope it will lead to enhanced surgical procedures which expand the efficacy of those in use at present.

The Advanced Spine Center

Advanced Spine Center brings patients focused specialization in all conditions affecting the spine, offering personalized treatment and therapies.

Our team of surgeons combines many years’ experience in treating spinal anomalies, deformities and conditions.  Each is an expert in a wide variety of conditions, offering leading edge, evidenced-based therapies for scoliosis, kyphosis and failed back syndrome.

At Advanced Spine, we’re dedicated to offering patients the most advanced spine care available anywhere and committed to a conservative therapeutic approach.  We’re keenly aware of the overwhelming desire of many patients to avoid complex spine surgeries, so we offer the very latest technologies in minimally invasive surgeries.

If you’re suffering from back or neck pain, or have undergone a surgery requiring revision, the team at Advanced can help.  Your quality of life matters.  Contact us.