Vitals and Bits #4: The Xiphoid Process

I’ll be honest with you. I’m totally going to phone it in with this blog entry. You may be asking yourself, why would Miss Diagnosis disappoint her loyal readers with a half-assed blog entry? Well, it’s simple. I’ve been really busy with graduate school, and I’m thoroughly exhausted.

But it’s not as though anyone’s life depends upon my consistent delivery of high-quality blog entries. My lack of effort won’t result in someone’s death.

I’m used to working in a high-stakes environment where even a mild hangover can result in a grievous medication error that lands one of my patients in the ICU. This is probably why blogging is so fun for me. I’m allowed to suck at it every now and again without the fear of seriously harming anyone (other than my future self). So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to a little bit of anatomical real estate known as the xiphoid process.

I chose to write about the xiphoid this week precisely because there’s not much to say. It’s a little piece of cartilage that protrudes from the bottom of your sternum (breastbone). During adulthood, the cartilage is gradually replaced with bone, which is a process called ossification.

So it’s kinda like this bone-esque thingie in your chest that doesn’t do much. Some people have a uniquely shaped xiphoid process, which is a genetic trait. This means it can be used to help identify dead people. Also, it’s best not to press on someone’s xiphoid process if you’re giving them CPR, since it can puncture the diaphragm. And that’s about all she wrote.

The xiphoid process. Now you know.