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Brachial plexus trauma: the morbidity of hemidiaphragmatic paralysis
  1. O I Franko,
  2. Z Khalpey,
  3. J Gates
  1. Department of Surgery, Brigham and Womens Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Dr Z Khalpey, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (PB-B-4), 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA; zkhalpey{at}


Phrenic nerve palsy has previously been associated with brachial plexus root avulsion; severe unilateral phrenic nerve injury is not uncommonly associated with brachial plexus injury. Brachial plexus injuries can be traumatic (gunshot wounds, lacerations, stretch/contusion and avulsion injuries) or non-traumatic in aetiology (supraclavicular brachial plexus nerve block, subclavian vein catheterisation, cardiac surgeries, or obstetric complications such as birth palsy). Despite the known association, the incidence and morbidity of a phrenic nerve injury and hemidiaphragmatic paralysis associated with traumatic brachial plexus stretch injuries remains ill-defined. The incidence of an associated phrenic nerve injury with brachial plexus trauma ranges from 10% to 20%; however, because unilateral diaphragmatic paralysis often presents without symptoms at rest, a high number of phrenic nerve injuries are likely to be overlooked in the setting of brachial plexus injury. A case report is presented of a unilateral phrenic nerve injury associated with brachial plexus stretch injury presenting with a recalcitrant left lower lobe pneumonia.

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

  • Contributors: OIF and ZK contributed equally towards this manuscript.

  • Patient consent: Obtained.