Key messages

• The diaphragm is a unique skeletal muscle that resembles cardiac muscle.

• Respiratory muscle function, and particularly diaphragmatic function, are linked tightly at the level of muscle blood flow.

• Impairment in diaphragmatic contractility reduces peak transdiaphragmatic pressure during maximum static inspiratory effort.

• When the time constant of the exponential phase of relaxation exceeds 75 ms, diaphragmatic dysfunction may be suspected.

• Diaphragmatic muscle fatigue is associated with electromyographic redistribution from high to low frequencies.

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