Sleep-disordered breathing in unilateral diaphragm paralysis or severe weakness

J Steier, C J Jolley, J Seymour, S Kaul, Y M Luo, G F Rafferty, N Hart, M I Polkey, J Moxham

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66 Citations (Scopus)


Few data exist concerning sleep in patients with hemidiaphragm paralysis or weakness. Traditionally, such patients are considered to sustain normal ventilation in sleep. In the present study, diaphragm strength was measured in order to identify patients with unilateral paralysis or severe weakness. Patients underwent polysomnography with additional recordings of the transoesophageal electromyogram (EMG) of the diaphragm and surface EMG of extra-diaphragmatic respiratory muscles. These data were compared with 11 normal, healthy subjects matched for sex, age and body mass index (BMI). In total, 11 patients (six males, mean+/-sd age 56.5+/-10.0 yrs, BMI 28.7+/-2.8 kg x m(-2)) with hemidiaphragm paralysis or severe weakness (unilateral twitch transdiaphragmatic pressure 3.3+/-1.7 cmH(2)O (0.33+/-0.17 kPa) were studied. They had a mean+/-sd respiratory disturbance index of 8.1+/-10.1 events x h(-1) during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and 26.0+/-17.8 events x h(-1) during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (control groups 0.4+/-0.4 and 0.7+/-0.9 events x h(-1), respectively). The diaphragm EMG, as a percentage of maximum, was double that of the control group in NREM sleep (15.3+/-5.3 versus 8.9+/-4.9% max, respectively) and increased in REM sleep (20.0+/-6.9% max), while normal subjects sustained the same level of activation (6.2+/-3.1% max). Patients with unilateral diaphragm dysfunction are at risk of developing sleep-disordered breathing during rapid eye movement sleep. The diaphragm electromyogram, reflecting neural respiratory drive, is doubled in patients compared with normal subjects, and increases further in rapid eye movement sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1487
Number of pages9
JournalThe European respiratory journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diaphragm
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paralysis
  • Polysomnography
  • Quality of Life
  • Questionnaires
  • Respiratory Paralysis
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes


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