In anatomical terms, a process refers to a projection or an outgrowth occurring from another body part. When you talk about xiphoid Process, it is a small bony or cartilaginous projection that emanates from the lowermost portion of breastbone or sternum. The xiphoid Process is also known as the xiphisternal bone or xiphisternum. The xiphisternum or xiphoid Process is considered the smallest yet most inferior part of sternum or the breastbone.
During birth, this projection is usually thin and assuming roughly triangular shape but slowly ossifies into a bony structure where it fuses with the rest of the sternum. In clinical procedures, the xiphoid Process forms an important anatomy landmark in a person’s trunk and therefore, improper administering of cardiopulmonary resuscitation may cause damage to this bony structure.
The word Xiphoid used in naming this inferior part of breastbone comes from Greek word, which refers to sword shaped. The bony structure is usually thin and looks like a sword with a pointed shape. At the superior end of xphoid process, it is where it is widest and it attaches to the body of breastbone or sternum by a thin somewhat movable fibrous joint known as syndesmosi.
Genetically, there may be variations in the shape or appearance of xiphoid process; however, these variations do not change the function of this body part. When you count the first ten ribs extending from the spine and wrapping around the chest, you find that they joint breastbone at the center of chest. In the lowest point of the rib, try to follow it towards your chest or center of the chest and you will feel the xiphoid process.
The xiphoid process is just below the lowest part of the sternum or the area where the lowermost rib joins the breastbone. The part of breastbone or sternum, which is above xiphoid process, is referred to as the manubrium. There is an immobile joint, which occurs between the two parts of sternum, and it is referred to as the xiphisternal joint. While xiphoidprocess has a roughly teardrop shape, it also has a small hole.
The development of Xiphoid Process
During the early life or at birth, xiphoid Process begins to grow as mainly cartilage. However, as an individual ages, this part becomes ossified or grows into a bony structure. By middle of life, the xiphisternal joint fuses to the manubrium part of sternum thereby forming a single sternum bone. In the body, there are various parts where the cartilage is replaced by bone as an individual ages. This pattern of cartilage being gradually replaced by bone materials is found in areas such as formation and growth of the limb bone plates.
The function of Xiphoid Process
The development of xiphoid process starts with a hyaline cartilage at time of birth. Through a slow ossification or bone formation, the cartilage begins to turn into a bone that becomes part of the sternum. The ossification takes place so slowly that the xiphoid process formation does not end until one attains the age of about 40 years. For all that time since birth, the xphoid process is developing and forming part of sternum or breastbone.
The xiphoid process is known to anchor a number of muscles for example the abdominal diaphragm. The abdominal diaphragm is a sheet-like muscle, which helps in breathing. The xiphoid process also anchors other muscles like rectus abdominus muscle or popularly the abs muscles, which are responsible for forming the six-pack bodybuilder’s shape. The transversus thoracis also anchor from the xiphoid process.
Xipoid Process – Pain
At times, this structure of the sternum may also bend forming a lump sticking out from around the chest. Such a lump may not cause problems to individuals at first however, it may eventually turn uncomfortable when an individual eats a heavy meal or lifts weight. Severe pain or inflammation may occur when the xiphoid process is swollen. Treatment should be done in early stages of this condition.
Due to accidents or trauma, you may have a situation where the extension of sternum breaks off completely. This may cause problems such as nausea, difficult breathing, and chest pain. However, the broken off or protruding xiphoid process may not necessarily cause death.
Damage of Xiphoid Process in CRP
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is conducted when one experiences a cardiac arrest. It is done by chest compressions. In time of conducting CPR, the xiphoid process plays a role in determining the area or location where the chest compressions should be administered.
It is important that people giving the first aid and resuscitation refrain from applying pressure on xiphoid process. This could cause the xiphoid process to detach or separate itself from the rest of the breastbone or sternum, which may also lead to possible puncturing of the liver or the diaphragm.
Care should therefore be taken when doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation to prevent putting pressure on this bony structure of the sternum. The Xiphoid Process is unsupported structure, which means that it can easily break and result in damage of internal organs.
Some hand positions of CPR may not be safe especially in women and persons who have short stature. The hands could easily extend over or pass the base of sternum meaning pressure may be induced in the xiphoid process. The xiphoid process is one landmark that helps locate the heart apex in times of CPR.