Bilateral diaphragm paralysis is a rare but important complication of open heart surgery. Two cases were found among 360 prospectively studied patients undergoing open heart surgery during one year. Both patients had insulin dependent diabetes with peripheral neuropathy and this may have contributed to their diaphragm paralysis. The patients were studied postoperatively for one year with measurements of lung function, nocturnal oximetry, diaphragmatic function, and phrenic nerve conduction. Treatment with intermittent positive airway pressure ventilation by nasal mask was effective in both patients. After nine months one patient had recovered completely with normal phrenic nerve conduction and diaphragmatic function; the other continues most of his normal daytime activities, but still requires nasal positive airway pressure ventilation for six hours at night.
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