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What is a Suspensory Ligament?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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A suspensory ligament is a structure in the body that provides support to an internal structure or organ. Suspensory ligaments are found in animals of all shapes and sizes and contribute to the stability of the overall musculoskeletal structure in addition to the systems used to keep organs anchored in place inside the body. Disorders of the connective tissue can involve these ligaments, and they can also experience injury on an individual level as a result of overextension, disease, or surgical procedures.

Each suspensory ligament is made from tough, fibrous tissue with some elasticity to allow it to shift and flex as the body moves. Either end of the ligament is anchored, keeping the attached structures fixed relative to each other. One example is the suspensory ligaments around the eye. The eyes are held in place by these ligaments and they shift and flex to allow the eye to move within the socket. If the eye is strained, it can exceed the tolerances of the ligaments, and they may snap, allowing the eye to pop out.

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Internal organs in the body cavity are held in place with suspensory ligaments. This prevents drift without the body cavity that might result in organ malfunction if organs tangled with each other or created points of pressure. Some give is provided in the structure of the ligaments to allow the organs to move within the abdomen and thorax as the body shifts and the organs fill and empty. Similar suspensory ligament arrangements can be seen around some of the joints, holding the joint together and offering support.

People with connective tissue diseases can experience problems with their suspensory ligaments, as the tissue may break down or be extremely weak, exposing people to the risk of torn or strained ligaments. People can also injure individual ligaments with extensions pushing the tissue past its limit. Physical trauma, including surgery, can be another source of injury to a suspensory ligament. Within the abdominal cavity, people sometimes form adhesions, bands of connective tissue creating new connections between structures in the abdomen. Adhesions can result in internal injury, including strain on suspensory ligaments.

It is possible to use grafts to replace or repair damaged suspensory ligaments. A doctor can take tissue from a donor cadaver or from the patient, using less critical ligaments. The donor site will eventually regrow with time, and the donor suspensory ligament will be less likely to reject, because it is from the patient's own body.

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