DIAPHRAGM . The diaphragm or midriff (Anglo-Saxon, mid, middle, hrif, belly) in human anatomy is a large fibro-muscular partition between the cavities of the thorax and abdomen; it is convex toward the thorax, concave toward the abdomen, and consists of a central tendon and a muscular margin. The central tendon (q, fig. 1) is trefoil in shape, its leaflets being right, left and anterior; of these the right is the largest and the left the smallest. The fleshy fibres rise, in front from the back of the xiphoid cartilage of the sternum (d), laterally by six serrations, from the inner surfaces of the lower six ribs, interdigitating with the transversalis, posteriorly from the arcuate ligaments, of which there are five, a pair of external, a pair of internal, and a single median one. The external arcuate ligament (h) stretches from the tip of the twelfth rib (b) to the costal process of the first lumbar vertebra in front of the quadratus lumborum muscle (o), the internal and middle are continuations of the crura which rise from the ventro-lateral aspects of the bodies of the lumbar vertebrae, the right (e) coming from three, the left (f) from two. On reaching the level of the twelfth thoracic vertebra each crus spreads out into a fan-shaped mass of fibres, of which the innermost join their fellows from the opposite crus, in front of the aortic opening (k), to form the middle arcuate ligament; the outer ones (g) arch in front of the psoas muscle (n) to the tip of the costal process of the first lumbar vertebra to form the internal arcuate ligament, while the intermediate ones pass to the central tendon. There are three large openings in the diaphragm; the aortic (k) is behind the middle arcuate ligament and transmits the aorta, the vena azygos major, and the thoracic duct. In the right leaflet is an opening (sometimes called the hiatus quadratus) for the inferior vena cava and a branch of the right phrenic nerve (m), while in front and a little to the left of the aortic opening is one for the oesophagus and the two pneumogastric nerves (l), the left being in front and the right behind. The fleshy fibres on each side of this opening act as a sphincter. Passing between the xiphoid and costal origins in front are the superior epigastric arteries, while the other terminal branches of the internal mammaries, the musculo-phrenics, pass through between two costal origins.
Fig. 1. - Abdominal Surface of the Diaphragm.
Through the crura pass the splanchnic nerves, and in addition to these the left crus is pierced by the vena azygos minor. The sympathetic nerves usually enter the abdomen behind the internal arcuate ligaments. The phrenic nerves, which are the main supply of the diaphragm, divide before reaching the muscle and pierce it in a number of places to enter its abdominal surface, but some of the lower intercostal nerves assist in the supply. The last thoracic or subcostal nerves pass behind the external arcuate ligament.
For the action of the diaphragm see Respiratory System.
Embryology. - The diaphragm is at first developed in the neck region of the embryo, and this accounts for the phrenic nerves, which supply it, rising from the fourth and fifth cervical. From the mesoderm on the caudal side of the pericardium is developed the septum transversum, and in this the central tendon is formed. The fleshy portion is developed on each side in two parts, an anterior or sterno-costal which is derived from the longitudinal neck musculature, probably the same layer from which the sternothyroid comes, and a spinal part which is a derivative of the transversalis sheet of the trunk. Between these two parts is at one time a gap, the spino-costal hiatus, and this is obliterated by the growth of the pleuro-peritoneal membrane, which may occasionally fail to close and so may form the site of a phrenic hernia. With the growth of the body and the development of the lungs the diaphragm shifts its position until it becomes the septum between the thoracic and abdominal cavities. (See A. Keith, "On the Development of the Diaphragm," Jour. of Anat. and Phys. vol. 39.) A. Paterson has recorded cases in which the left half of the diaphragm is wanting (Proceedings of the Anatomical Society of Gt. Britain, June 1900; Jour. of Anat. and Phys. vol. 34), and occasionally deficiencies are found elsewhere, especially in the sternal portion. For further details see Quain's Anatomy, vol. i. (London, 1908).
Comparative Anatomy. - A complete diaphragm, separating the thoracic from the abdominal parts of the coelom, is characteristic of the Mammalia; it usually has the human structure and relations except that below the Anthropoids it is separated from the pericardium by the azygous lobe of the lung. In some Mammals, e.g. Echidna and Phocoena, it is entirely muscular. In the Cetacea it is remarkable for its obliquity; its vertebral attachment is much nearer the tail than its sternal or ventral one; this allows a much larger lung space in the dorsal than in the ventral part of the thorax, and may be concerned with the equipoise of the animal. (Otto Müller, "Untersuchungen über die Veränderung, welche die Respirationsorgane der Säugetiere durch die Anpassung an das Leben im Wasser erlitten haben," Jen. Zeitschr. f. Naturwiss., 1898, p. 93.) In the Ungulata only one crus is found (Windle and Parsons, "Muscles of the Ungulata," Proc. Zool. Soc., 1903, p. 287). Below the Mammals incomplete partitions between the pleural and peritoneal cavities are found in Chelonians, Crocodiles and Birds, and also in Amphibians (Xenopus and Pipa).
(F. G. P.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)