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Chest wall diseases and restrictive physiology

Richard M Schwartzstein, MD
Section Editor
Talmadge E King, Jr, MD
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


The chest wall is a critical component of the respiratory pump. Diseases that alter the structure of the chest wall affect the function of the pump and may result in respiratory compromise or failure. The components of the chest wall include the bony structures (ribs, spine), respiratory muscles, and nerves connecting the central nervous system with the respiratory muscles. The various forces acting upon the mechanical structure of the chest wall play a major role in determining lung volume, and chest wall abnormalities can have a significant impact on lung function; in particular, chest wall pathology may be a significant contributor to restrictive physiology of the respiratory system.

Chest wall structure and physiology and diseases that affect the respiratory function of the chest wall will be reviewed here. Included are discussions of the following conditions:

Congenital and childhood abnormalities

Kyphosis and scoliosis

Ankylosing spondylitis

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 07, 2017.
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