Diaphragmatic spasm: A neglected cause of dyspnoea and chest pain


The study included 17 patients, 12 women and 5 men, with a recurrent symptom complex involving chest pain and dyspnoea characterized by inability to get a full breath. Some attacks had subsided spontaneously. Others had lasted hours or days. When examined by fluoroscopy during an attack, each subject was found to have a nearly maximally contracted (flat) diaphragm. In some of them the attack was promptly interrupted by a small intravenous injection of sodium amytal. In others it could be aborted by a conscious effort at full expiration. The syndrome associated with diaphragmatic spasm is discussed in comparison with other noncardiac sources of chest pain and dyspnoea.

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  1. Wolf, S. (1947). Sustained contraction of the diaphragm; the mechanism of a common type of dyspnoea and precordial pain (abstract).Journal of Clinical Investigation, 26: 1201.

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Correspondence to Stewart G. Wolf M.D..

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Wolf, S.G. Diaphragmatic spasm: A neglected cause of dyspnoea and chest pain. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 29, 74–76 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02691282

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  • Chest Pain
  • Spontaneous Pneumothorax
  • Medical Research Laboratory
  • Amytal
  • Diaphragmatic Excursion