Rare condition can come on suddenly

Imagine waking up one day and being unable to do the simplest of tasks without struggling to breathe.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Imagine waking up one day and being unable to do the simplest of tasks without struggling to breathe.

It can be the result of a rare condition called diaphragm paralysis.

Betty Mosely feels fortunate to have lived 86 years with relatively few health issues.

“But I noticed that I started having a lot of respiratory problems -- trouble breathing -- and it was getting worse and worse. I could walk but I’d be so short of breath, so short of breath, I had to sit down,” Mosely said.

Specialists at UHealth diagnosed Mosely with diaphragm paralysis.

“The diaphragm is the structural muscle or structure between the chest and the abdomen -- its main function is to control breathing,” said Dr. Dao Nguyen, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at UHealth.

Nguyen said the diaphragm is supposed to move up and down, but when it gets stuck in an elevated position, in essence “paralyzed” in that position, it compresses the lungs.

“And they come to us with an abnormal x-ray, we perform a simple test called the sniff test. We send them to radiology, under fluoroscopy, and ask them to sniff. If the diaphragm doesn’t move, we know it’s paralyzed,” Nguyen said.

Based on a patient’s symptoms, surgery may be an option.

“And now we don’t have to open chest surgery anymore -- we can do it endoscopically, particularly with robotic surgery,” Nguyen said.

After undergoing the minimally invasive procedure in April 2022, Mosely said she is breathing easier and looking forward to being able to jump back in to some of her favorite activities.

“I feel 98 to 99 percent better. Not line dancing yet, but I’m trying, I’m going to get there,” she said with a smile.

Since diaphragm paralysis can sometimes heal on its own, doctors may wait and see if that’s the case for some patients before proceeding to surgical intervention.


About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.