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Rectus abdominis diastasis

Maurice Nahabedian, MD
David C Brooks, MD
Section Editors
Charles E Butler, MD, FACS
Michael Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Rectus abdominis diastasis (RAD) (diastasis recti, divarication of the rectus abdominis, abdominal muscle separation) is an anatomic term describing a condition in which the two rectus muscles are separated by an abnormal distance [1,2]. Acquired rectus abdominis diastasis (RAD) can result from any number of conditions that weaken the linea alba resulting in protrusion of abdominal contents.

The definition, clinical features, and management of RAD are reviewed here. RAD is not to be confused with abdominal wall hernia, which is a potentially serious condition that can lead to bowel obstruction. (See "Overview of abdominal wall hernias in adults".)


The anterior abdominal wall consists of the abdominal rectus muscles separated by the linea alba, which is a fusion of the external and internal abdominal oblique muscle and transversus abdominis aponeuroses [3-5]. (See "Anatomy of the abdominal wall", section on 'Muscles'.)

Rectus abdominis diastasis (RAD) describes a condition in which an abnormally wide distance separates the two rectus muscles. However, there is controversy regarding what constitutes a normal inter-rectus distance, at what level measurements should be taken, and by what means, and thus, when the distance can be considered abnormal [1]. We consider any separation more than 2 cm to be abnormal.

What is considered abnormal may differ below as compared with above the umbilicus. In one anatomic study, the normal width of the linea alba in nulliparous women from 20 to 45 years of age with a body mass index <30 was up to 15 mm at the xiphoid, up to 22 mm at 3 cm above the umbilicus and up to 16 mm at 2 cm below the umbilicus [5]. In another anatomic study, the width of the linea alba ranged from 11 to 21 mm when measured from the xyphoid process to the umbilicus, and decreased from 11 mm to 2 mm when measured from the umbilicus to the pubic symphysis. The thickness of the linea alba ranged from 900 to 1200 micrometers between the xyphoid and the umbilicus, and increased from 1700 to 2400 micrometers from the umbilicus to the pubic symphysis [6].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: May 20, 2015.
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