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Xiphoid Process

The xiphoid process, also known as xiphisternum or metasternum, is a small cartilaginous process (extension) of the lower part of breastbone or the sternum. It consists of cartilage in the early years of life and becomes bony in nature in the adult human. You can feel your xiphoid process by feeling your lowermost rib and following it to your chest; the xiphoid process is just below that. It is the smallest of three parts of the sternum, articulating with the inferior end of the body of the sternum above and laterally with the seventh rib. Several muscles of the abdominal wall are attached to the xiphoid process, including the rectus abdominis. The xiphisternal joint is usually fused to the manubrium by middle life, forming a single sternum bone. Unlike the synovial articulation of major joints, this is non-movable. Much the way the first seven ribs articulate with the sternum, the cartilage in the celiac plexus joins on the xiphoid process, reinforcing it, and indirectly attaches the costal cartilage to the sternum. In newborn babies and young (especially slender) infants, the tip of the xiphoid process may be both seen and felt as a lump just below the sternal notch. The xiphoid process is considered to be at the level of the 9th thoracic vertebra and the T6 dermatome . The xiphoid process can be naturally bifurcated, and sometimes perforated. These variances in morphology are inheritable, which can help group family members together when dealing with burial remains. These morphological differences pose no health risk, and are simply a difference in form. The xiphoid process anchors several important muscles, including the abdominal diaphragm, a sheet-like muscle that is necessary for normal breathing. It also anchors the rectus abdominus muscle (the "abs," responsible for the bodybuilder's "sixpack") and the transversus thoracis muscle, located just inside the front of the ribs.