Phrenic Nerve (Nursing)

by Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

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      Slides Nursing Respiratory System Diaphragm Phrenic Nerve.pdf
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      Reference List Medical Surgical Nursing and Pathophysiology Nursing.pdf
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    00:00 Now the phrenic nerve, obviously it's not a muscle that's why we call it the phrenic nerve. The phrenic nerve controls the diaphragm muscle. It's the one that sends signals from the brain to allow you to breathe without thinking. Thank goodness. My brain is involved and I don't have to remember to say breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. So it's this phrenic nerve.

    00:25 Now if it takes a hit, if it gets damaged, it can really mess with my normal breathing processes and impact my overall health. So I need these muscles, diaphragms, intercostals, I need those those to be strong and functioning but I also need a healthy functioning phrenic nerve.

    00:45 Because even if my diaphragm is ready to go, the phrenic nerve has been damaged, I'm not going to be able to breathe as well on my own. So look at the diagram we have for you. Now you can see that you've got the cervical vertebra are numbered, so they gave you that as a frame of reference. If you file that spinal cord all the way down, you see they've numbered some of the other vertebra for you. But the yellow coming off that represents the phrenic nerve. Now you see the phrenic nerve, if it becomes irritated or damaged, this patient's ability or your mind, our ability to breathe spontaneously is going to be significantly impacted. So you see those yellow nerves, right, they're moving down through, they go all the way down to the diaphragm. They have a connection between my brain and my diaphragm and that's what drives my breathing. If it becomes irritated, you can have the hiccups, hiccups. Have you ever experienced those? Those can be torturous if they go on for too long. But one cause of hiccups could be a phrenic nerve irritation. The patient also might become short of breath. But why would that be? The phrenic nerve is irritated, then that's not going to be the normal communication between the brain and the diaphragm and that's why the patient might be short of breath. Now, they're going to be short of breath particularly when they're lying down or the diaphragm could become paralyzed. Now that is a medical emergency. So if there's phrenic nerve damage, there's a difference between irritation we're hoping that could be temporary. Phrenic nerve damage is more permanent. Now that might come from spinal cord injury, from a physical trauma, or maybe a complication from surgery. Either way, this is going to have a more lasting effect than an irritation.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Phrenic Nerve (Nursing) by Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN is from the course Review: Anatomy and Physiology of the Respiratory System (Nursing).

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Phrenic nerve
    2. Cranial nerve
    3. Trochlear nerve
    4. Sensory nerve
    1. Hiccups
    2. Shortness of breath when lying down
    3. Inability to breathe spontaneously
    4. Diarrhea
    5. Anemia

    Author of lecture Phrenic Nerve (Nursing)

     Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

    Rhonda Lawes, PhD, RN

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