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Diaphragmatic dysfunction is a major factor in the etiology of postoperative pulmonary complications after upper abdominal surgery. M-mode ultrasonography is now an accepted qualitative method of assessing diaphragmatic motion in normal and pathological conditions. In this study, we evaluated whether diaphragmatic inspiratory amplitude (DIA) as measured by M-mode sonography can be a predictor of pulmonary dysfunction.A prospective, single-center, single-unit, observational study was performed in 35 ASA physical status I and II nonsmoking patients undergoing open liver lobectomy. Diaphragmatic movements were assessed by M-mode sonography after a pulmonary function test preoperatively and on postoperative days (PODs) 1, 2, and 7. We measured the DIA (cm) during quiet, deep, and sniff breathing.After liver lobectomy, DIA during deep breathing and vital capacity (VC) showed significant reductions of 60% from their preoperative values on PODs 1 and 2 (P < 0.001). By POD 7, the variables recovered significantly, by 30% from the values on PODs 1 and 2 (P < 0.001). During deep breathing, DIA showed a significant correlation with VC (r = 0.839, P < 0.0001). The best cutoff values of DIA for detecting 30% and 50% decreases of VC from preoperative values, calculated by receiver operating characteristic analysis, were 3.61 and 2.41 cm, with sensitivity of 94% and 81% and specificity of 76% and 91%, respectively (P = 0.0001). Two patients showed postoperative diaphragmatic paralysis but did not complain of respiratory distress symptoms or need supplemental oxygen after being transferred to the general ward.DIA using M-mode sonography showed a linear correlation with VC measured by spirometry throughout the postoperative period. We conclude that using the M-mode sonographic technique at the bedside can be a practical way to investigate postoperative diaphragmatic dysfunction, and may also be an effective bedside screening method for diaphragmatic paralysis.