Efficient design of the diaphragm: Distribution of blood flow relative to mechanical advantage

Robert L. Johnson, Connie C W Hsia, Shin Ichi Takeda, Juliette L. Wait, Robb W. Glenny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The mammalian diaphragm is composed of two separate muscles (costal and crural) connected by a central tendon that serves as a piston head for drawing air into the lungs. The two muscles are described as having different embryological origins, segmental innervations, and mechanical functions [De Troyer A, Sampson M, Sigrist S, and Macklem PT. Science 213: 237-238, 1981; De Troyer A, Sampson M, Sigrist S, and Macklem PT. J Appl Physiol 53: 30-39, 1982]. On the basis of regional blood flow measurements, the two muscles appear to be nonuniformly recruited at rest, but we anticipated that the two muscles would become uniformly recruited at heavy exercise to efficiently support the high energy requirements of ventilation. We used fluorescent microspheres to measure regional blood flow within the two muscles as an index of muscle recruitment from rest to heavy treadmill exercise in well-trained foxhounds. However, the heterogeneity of blood flow at rest persisted as exercise workloads were increased. Blood flow per gram of muscle remained twofold greater in ventral than dorsal regions of both muscles from rest to heavy exercise. This pattern was matched by a twofold greater regional mechanical advantage in ventral than dorsal regions of the two muscles measured anatomically. Hence blood flow was preferentially and efficiently distributed to those regions capable of generating the greatest inspiratory power independent of muscle mass. The two muscles were recruited from rest to heavy exercise as a single functional unit, not as two muscles under separate control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-930
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Costal
  • Crural
  • Dog
  • Regional diaphragmatic blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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