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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jun;29(6):738-54.

Diaphragm structure and function in health and disease.

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Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University Manhattan 66506, USA.


The diaphragm is the primary muscle of inspiration, and as such uncompromised function is essential to support the ventilatory and gas exchange demands associated with physical activity. The normal healthy diaphragm may fatigue during intense exercise, and diaphragm function is compromised with aging and obesity. However, more insidiously, respiratory diseases such as emphysema mechanically disadvantage the diaphragm, sometimes leading to muscle failure and death. Based on metabolic considerations, recent evidence suggests that specific regions of the diaphragm may be or may become more susceptible to failure than others. This paper reviews the regional differences in mechanical and metabolic activity within the diaphragm and how such heterogeneities might influence diaphragm function in health and disease. Our objective is to address five principal areas: 1) Regional diaphragm structure and mechanics (GAF). 2) Regional differences in blood flow within the diaphragm (WLS). 3) Structural and functional interrelationships within the diaphragm microcirculation (DCP). 4) Nitric oxide and its vasoactive and contractile influences within the diaphragm (MBR). 5) Metabolic and contractile protein plasticity in the diaphragm (SKP). These topics have been incorporated into three discrete sections: Functional Anatomy and Morphology, Physiology, and Plasticity in Health and Disease. Where pertinent, limitations in our understanding of diaphragm function are addressed along with potential avenues for future research.

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