European Respiratory Journal vol:6 issue:5 pages:722-8
Elevation of the ribs and expansion of the rib cage result from the co-ordinated action of the rib cage muscles. We wished to review the action and interaction of the rib cage muscles during ventilation. The parasternal intercostal muscles appear to play a predominant role during quiet breathing, both in humans and in anaesthetized dogs. In humans, the parasternal intercostals act in concert with the scalene muscles to expand the upper rib cage, and/or to prevent it from being drawn inward by the action of the diaphragm. The external intercostal muscles are considered to be active mainly during inspiration, and the internal intercostal muscles during expiration. The respiratory activity of the external intercostals is minimal during quiet breathing both in man and in dogs, but increases with increasing ventilation. Inspiratory activity in the external intercostals can be enhanced in anaesthetized animals and humans by inspiratory mechanical loading and by CO2 stimulation, suggesting that the external intercostals may constitute a reserve system, that may be recruited when the desired expansion of the rib cage is increased. The triangularis sterni is an important expiratory muscle during quiet breathing in animals, but it is not active during quiet breathing in man. However, during expiration below functional residual capacity (FRC), and during speech, laughing and coughing, the triangularis sterni is recruited and plays an increasingly important role.