Parasternal and external intercostal responses to various respiratory maneuvers

A. F. DiMarco, J. R. Romaniuk, G. S. Supinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest that the external intercostal (EI) muscles of the upper rib cage, like the parasternals (PA), play an important ventilatory role, even during eupneic breathing. The purpose of the present study was to further assess the ventilatory role of the EI muscles by determining their response to various static and dynamic respiratory maneuvers and comparing them with the better-studied PA muscles. Applied interventions included 1) passive inflation and deflation, 2) abdominal compression, 3) progressive hypercapnia, and 4) response to bilateral cervical phrenicotomy. Studies were performed in 11 mongrel dogs. Electromyographic (EMG) activities were monitored via bipolar stainless steel electrodes. Muscle length (percentage of resting length) was monitored with piezoelectric crystals. With passive rib cage inflation produced either with a volume syringe or abdominal compression, each muscle shortened; with passive deflation, each muscle lengthened. During eupneic breathing, each muscle was electrically active and shortened to a similar degree. In response to progressive hypercapnia, peak EMG of each intercostal muscle increased linearly and to a similar extent. Inspiratory shortening also increased progressively with increasing PCO2, but in a curvilinear fashion with no significant differences in response among intercostal muscles. In response to phrenicotomy, the EMG and degree of inspiratory shortening of each intercostal muscle increased significantly. Again, the response among intercostal muscles was not significantly different. We conclude that 1) the static and dynamic responses of the EI of the upper rib cage to a variety of respiratory maneuvers are consistent with the action of inspiratory agonists, 2) EI responses are not significantly different from those of the PA, and 3) although the EI muscles may serve important postural concerns, they also serve an important ventilatory function comparable to that of the PA, both during eupneic breathing and with increased ventilatory demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-986
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992


  • electromyogram
  • inspiratory muscles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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