Review: Postnephrectomy diaphragmatic hernia presenting as progressive dyspnoea

BMJ Case Rep

. 2020 Oct 30;13(10):e235881. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2020-235881.b

Postnephrectomy diaphragmatic hernia presenting as progressive dyspnoea

Aqeem Azam 1Kirolos Michael 2Affiliations expand


The diagnosis of diaphragmatic hernia (DH) in adults is rare and may be due to missed congenital DH or acquired DH from trauma or as a postoperative complication of certain thoracic and abdominal surgeries. We present a case of a patient with well-controlled chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who presented to the hospital with progressive dyspnoea, 6 months after laparoscopic nephrectomy. The patient was initially misdiagnosed and treated for empyema after plain radiographic images were reported as consolidation with gas locules. Multislice CT imaging undertaken before diagnostic thoracocentesis confirmed the presence of a right-sided DH, which was subsequently surgically repaired in the outpatient setting, given her haemodynamic stability. As patients with DH usually present in the emergency setting, requiring urgent inpatient surgical repair, there are currently no guidelines on the method and urgency of management of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, stable patients. Furthermore, while plain radiography is the usual first-line imaging modality used, misdiagnosis of DH as pleural effusion or empyema can lead to unnecessary and potentially harmful procedures such as diagnostic thoracocentesis. These risks can potentially be minimised with early utilisation of multislice CT imaging in patients with high clinical suspicion.

Keywords: cardiothoracic surgery; gastrointestinal surgery; radiology; respiratory medicine; surgery.

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