Diaphragm Paralysis After Pediatric Cardiac Surgery: An STS Congenital Heart Surgery Database Study

Charles D. Fraser, William Ravekes, Dylan Thibault, Brandi Scully, Karen Chiswell, Katherine Giuliano, Kevin D. Hill, Jeffrey P. Jacobs, Marshall L. Jacobs, Shelby Kutty, Luca Vricella, Narutoshi Hibino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Previous single-center studies of diaphragm paralysis (DP) after pediatric cardiac surgery report incidence of 0.3% to 12.8% and associate DP with respiratory complications, prolonged ventilation and length of stay, and mortality. To better define incidence and associations between DP and various procedures and outcomes, we performed a multicenter study. Methods: The Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Heart Surgery Database was queried to identify children who experienced DP after cardiac surgery (2010-2018; 126 centers). Baseline characteristics and postoperative outcomes were compared between patients with and without DP as well as between patients who underwent plication and those who did not. Associations between center volume and center rates of DP and use of plication were also explored. Results: A total of 2214 of 191,463 (1.2%) patients experienced DP. Postoperative DP portended worse outcomes, including mortality (5.6% vs 3.5%; P <. 001), major morbidity (37.2% vs 10.7%; P <. 001), tracheostomy (7.1% vs 0.9%; P <. 001), prolonged mechanical ventilation (38.0% vs 7.8%; P <. 001), and 30-day readmission (22.0% vs 10.6%; P <. 001). A total of 1105 of 2214 (49.9%) patients with DP underwent plication. Patients who underwent plication were younger, were smaller, had more risk factors, and underwent more complex surgeries. Plication rates varied widely across centers. There was no correlation between center volume and center risk-adjusted rates of DP (r = .05, P =. 5), nor frequency of plication (r = .08, P =. 4). Conclusions: DP complicating pediatric heart surgery is rare but portends significantly worse outcomes. One-half of patients underwent plication. Center-level risk-adjusted rates of DP and plication are not associated with case volume. Significant variability in plication practices suggests a target for quality improvement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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