Definition of Suspensory Ligaments

Written by stephanie draus, nd
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Definition of Suspensory Ligaments
(from Gray's Anatomy, public domain, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gray1161.png)

Broadly speaking, a suspensory ligament is any portion of connective tissue that supports an internal organ. There are several suspensory ligaments in the human body. Some of the best-known are those connected to the breast, the lens of the eye, the ovaries, the uterus and the penis.

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Suspensory Ligament of the Breast

The suspensory ligaments of the breast, also known as Cooper's suspensory ligaments, run from the collarbone to the dermal layer of the skin overlying the breast. These ligaments hold the breast tissue in place and maintain the shape of the breast.

Suspensory Ligament of the Lens

The suspensory ligament of the lens is a group of fibres which run from the ciliary muscles of the eye (or ciliary body) to the lens. They function both to hold the lens in place and to transfer forces from the ciliary muscles to the lens, thus changing the focus of the lens. The fibres are also known as the zonula ciliaris, ciliary zonule, Zinn's membrane and the zonule of Zinn.

Suspensory Ligaments of the Ovaries

The suspensory ligaments of the ovaries are also known as the infundulopelvic ligaments. They are actually a portion of the inner lining of the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) which connects the ovaries to the pelvic wall. The ligaments anchor the ovaries in the body cavity, while allowing some degree of movement. The arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels of the ovary run through these ligaments.

Suspensory Ligaments of the Uterus

The uterus is connected to the pelvic wall by folds of peritoneum that are known collectively as the suspensory ligaments of the uterus, but more commonly referred to as the broad ligament and the round ligament. These ligaments anchor the uterus in the pelvis while allowing enough room for the expansion and movement of the organ during pregnancy and delivery. The major blood vessels of the pelvis run between the folds of the broad ligament.

Suspensory Ligament of the Penis

The suspensory ligament of the penis is a bundle of fibrous tissue that connects the base of the organ to the front of the pubic bone. The ligament holds the shaft close to the pelvic structure and supports it when erect. According to the Mayo Clinic, in one form of "enlargement surgery," the ligament is severed, initially giving the appearance of greater length. Without the support of the ligament, however, the organ is unstable when erect. This surgery is not endorsed by medical organisations.

Other Animals

In horses, the suspensory ligament of the leg connects to the fetlock joint. The fetlock is the point of flexion and extension between the hoof and the lower part of the leg, similar in function to our ankle. Injury to the ligaments is common in racehorses.

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