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 largest effectively continuous visceral cavity
of the body.
 provide multiple vital functions
 support and protection of the digestive and
urinary tracts and internal reproductive
organs and their associated neurovascular
 transmission of the neurovascular supply to
and from the thorax and the lower limb
 provision of support and attachment to the
external genitalia and access to and from the
internal reproductive and urinary organs
 provision of accessory muscles of
physiological actions such as respiration,
defecation, and micturition
 support for the spinal column in weight
bearing and movement.
 five lumbar vertebrae and their intervening
intervertebral discs (lying in the posterior
 three layers of skeletal muscles (transversus
abdominis, internal oblique and external
oblique) with associated fasciae and skin
(lying lateral and anterolateral
 a single muscular layer (rectus abdominis)
with its associated fascial coverings (lying
 the bony ‘bowl' formed by the walls of the
true and false pelvis (ilium, ischium and pubis
on each side
 the muscles of the pelvic floor and perineum
(lying inferiorly)
 the diaphragm (lying superiorly)
Bony protection
 the pelvis (true and false)
 anterolateral portions of the lower six ribs
and their cartilages even though these
structures are technically part of the thoracic
 Between these two zones, the anterolateral
abdominal wall is entirely musculofascial but
of sufficient thickness and strength that it
provides adequate protection for the viscera
such that even direct blows can be resisted.
 The abdominal wall and retroperitoneal
structures play an important role in the
function of the spinal column in both
movement of the thorax in relation to the
pelvis and in aiding support of the spine in
weight bearing.
 The anterolateral muscles provide assistance
with flexion and rotation of the thorax in
relation to the pelvis (or vice versa if the
thorax is fixed).
Communications between thoracic and
abdominal cavities
1. Inferior vena cava crosses between its
through the caval opening of the diaphragm
2. Oesophagus passing inferiorly through the
oesophageal opening of the diaphragm
3. Aorta between posterior to the median
arcuate ligament of the diaphragm
4. Lymphatics of the abdomen draining
upwards to the thorax via the thoracic duct,
peri-caval lymphatics and small vessels
draining directly through and at the
peripheral insertions of the diaphragm
5. Azygos and hemiazygos veins ascending into
the thoracic azygos system
6. the autonomic nervous system, both
sympathetic and parasympathetic via the
various diaphragmatic openings, and directly
through the substance of the diaphragm itself
Caput medusae