Ipsilateral and contralateral hemidiaphragm dynamics in symptomatic pleural effusion: The 2nd PLeural Effusion And Symptom Evaluation (PLEASE-2) Study
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Exercise Medicine Research Institute
Boston Scientific Corporation / Lung Foundation Australia / Sir Charles Gairdner Research Advisory Committee
Background and objective: The pathophysiology of breathlessness in pleural effusion is unclear. In the PLEASE-1 study, abnormal ipsilateral hemidiaphragm shape and movement, assessed qualitatively, were independently associated with breathlessness relief after pleural drainage. Effects of pleural effusion on contralateral hemidiaphragm function are unknown. PLEASE-2, a prospective exploratory pilot study, assessed the effects of unilateral effusion and drainage on both hemidiaphragms using advanced quantitative bedside ultrasonography. Methods: Individuals with symptomatic unilateral pleural effusion undergoing therapeutic drainage were included. Measurements pre- and post-drainage included severity of breathlessness (visual analogue scale) and ultrasound measurements of diaphragm excursion and thickness, in addition to shape and movement. Diaphragm measurements were compared to published reference values. Results: Twenty participants were recruited (mean age 68.9 [SD 12.8] years, 12 females). During tidal breathing, contralateral hemidiaphragm excursion exceeded ipsilateral excursion and reference values (all p ≤ 0.001). Contralateral excursion was greatest in participants with abnormal ipsilateral hemidiaphragm movement and was inversely correlated with ipsilateral tidal excursion (r = − 0.676, p = 0.001). Following drainage (mean volume 2121 [SD = 1206] ml), abnormal shape (n = 12) and paradoxical movement (n = 9) of the ipsilateral hemidiaphragm resolved in all participants, and tidal excursion of the contralateral hemidiaphragm normalized. Relief of breathlessness post-drainage correlated with improvement in ipsilateral hemidiaphragm excursion (r = 0.556, p = 0.031). Conclusion: This pilot study suggests, for the first time, that unilateral pleural effusion not only impairs ipsilateral hemidiaphragm function but also causes compensatory hyperactivity of the contralateral hemidiaphragm, which resolves post-drainage. These findings provide a basis for detailed studies of diaphragmatic function and ventilatory drive in patients with symptomatic pleural effusion.