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Lung diseases

Flat diaphragm



My husband recently had his yearly check up, with x-ray. The doctor was intrigued by the x-ray and asked my husband if he is a heavy smoker since she saw a flat diaphragm. My husband has never smoked in his life! What does it mean to have a flat diaphragm and what should he do about it? Thanks!


The diaphragms are the muscles that separate the chest from the abdomen and are used in ventilation.  They normally have a dome shape.  With smoking and the development of emphysema, there may be the development of hyperinflation and air trapping.  This increased volume within the chest pushes the diaphragm down giving it a flattened rather than a domed shape.  Another possibility is that your husband took an abnormally large breath in when he was asked to hold his breath for the chest x-ray and this large breath caused some flattening of the diaphragm.

It would be helpful for you to review the xray with your husband's physician and see if there are any other considerations.

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Response by:

Ralph   Panos, MD Ralph Panos, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati