It depends on the extent of injury to the diaphragm. Patients who develop large diaphragmatic defects have critical problems shortly after trauma. This is due to compromised cardiac and pulmonary function associated with large herniation of abdominal contents into the chest cavity. When the conditions are not as severe, patients may have vague symptoms and the diagnosis may be delayed.
Over time, breathing may aggravate the underlying diaphragmatic injury and herniation. At times, the intestines may herniate into the chest and become obstructed. This can lead to abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.