SHREWSBURY, N.J. (KFSN) --It's often misdiagnosed, and can restrict breathing and reduce lung capacity to that of someone 30 years older, but a new procedure is now treating a debilitating condition called diaphragm paralysis.
These healthy, active, tennis club teammates-Marita Dowell and Pat Schoenig- began suddenly suffering the same chronic shortness of breath.
"The worst problem that I had with the breathing was that I was uncomfortable 24/7," said Schoenig.
"It was completely debilitating when the breathing became an issue. I couldn't take a deep breath, which affected everything," explained Dowell.
Both women had partial diaphragm paralysis, often resulting from shoulder surgery, as Dowell had, or heart surgery. Matthew Kaufman, M.D., FACS, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Plastic Surgery Center in New Jersey, developed a new, minimally-invasive way to treat it. Dr. Kaufman reconstructs the phrenic nerve, the nerve that helps control the movement of the diaphragm. He enters the lower neck and implants another nerve taken from the leg.
Dr. Kaufman told Ivanhoe, "The procedure is intended to restore function to a muscle that's paralyzed. The muscle we're talking about is the muscle of breathing." (Read Full Interview)
"It's a miracle." said Schoenig. "I can hike now, I can ride a bike, and I don't lose my breath."
Dowell detailed, "Now I'm relaxed, I can do things, I can play with the kids. I can play tennis. I'm thrilled to be hitting a ball. I don't care if I win."
Both ladies are now literally breathing easier.
Dr. Kaufman said now his office receives about 300 inquiries annually from those with diaphragm paralysis around the country.
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