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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Mar;98(3):795-803. Epub 2004 Nov 12.

Interaction between the canine diaphragm and intercostal muscles in lung expansion.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cardiorespiratory Physiology, Brussels School of Medicine and Chest Service, Erasme University Hospital, Brussels Belgium.


Changes in intrathoracic pressure produced by the various inspiratory intercostals are essentially additive, but the interaction between these muscles and the diaphragm remains uncertain. In the present study, this interaction was assessed by measuring the changes in airway opening (DeltaPao) or transpulmonary pressure (DeltaPtp) in vagotomized, phrenicotomized dogs during spontaneous inspiration (isolated intercostal contraction), during isolated rectangular or ramp stimulation of the peripheral ends of the transected C(5) phrenic nerve roots (isolated diaphragm contraction), and during spontaneous inspiration with superimposed phrenic nerve stimulation (combined diaphragm-intercostal contraction). With the endotracheal tube occluded at functional residual capacity, DeltaPao during combined diaphragm-intercostal contraction was nearly equal to the sum of the DeltaPao produced by the two muscle groups contracting individually. However, when the endotracheal tube was kept open, DeltaPtp during combined contraction was 123% of the sum of the individual DeltaPtp (P < 0.001). The increase in lung volume during combined contraction was also 109% of the sum of the individual volume increases (P < 0.02). Abdominal pressure during combined contraction was invariably lower than during isolated diaphragm contraction. It is concluded, therefore, that the canine diaphragm and intercostal muscles act synergistically during lung expansion and that this synergism is primarily due to the fact that the intercostal muscles reduce shortening of the diaphragm. When the lung is maintained at functional residual capacity, however, the synergism is obscured because the greater stiffness of the rib cage during diaphragm contraction enhances the DeltaPao produced by the isolated diaphragm and reduces the DeltaPao produced by the intercostal muscles.

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