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Alternative namesThe inward movement of the muscles between the ribs as a result of reduced pressure in the chest cavity; usually a sign of difficulty with breathing.
ConsiderationsThe chest wall is flexible, which allows for normal breathing. Cartilage that attaches the ribs to the sternum allows free movement of bony structures so that the rib cage can expand and contract. During breathing, the muscles between the ribs (intercostal muscles) contract and pull the rib cage upward while the diaphragm moves downward, thus increasing the volume of the chest cavity and causing air to be drawn into the lungs.
When the trachea (upper airway) or the smaller bronchioles (air sacs of the lungs) become partially blocked so that air flow is restricted, the normal increase in chest cavity size reduces the pressure within the chest and the intercostal muscles are drawn inward, between the ribs. This sucking in of the chest muscles is a sign of airway obstruction . Diseases or conditions that cause restriction of the airway will cause intercostal retraction.
This is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
Call your health care provider if
In emergency situations, interventions will be taken first to help with the breathing. This may include oxygen, medications to reduce swelling , or other measures.
When the condition is stable enough to allow it, the history will be obtained and a physical examination performed to determine the cause of the airway obstruction .
Medical history questions documenting intercostal retractions in detail may include:
You may want to add a diagnosis related to intercostal retractions to your personal medical record.
Update Date: 5/20/2002Elizabeth Hait, M.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT