Abdomen, or the lower belly, is one of the most important regions of the human body, not only on account of its various contents, but also from its exposed situation.
Although, to give a strictly ana-tomical description of the different parts composing the admirable fa-bric of the animal frame, is not consistent with the plan of this work, yet, where the welfare and safety of the body are essentially concerned, we propose to add a distinét expia-nation of the organs liable to injury, and, occasionally, to point out their proper management in a healthy state, together with a few hints for treating complaints, the source of which is frequently not suspected.
The abdomen extends, longitudi-nally, from that cavity, or hollow, which is usually called the pit of the stomach, to the lower part of the trunk : it is defended, in front, by the abdominal muscles ; behind, by the vertebras of the back ; and, on both sides, by the false ribs.
Instead of perplexing the readcr with a minute account of the three regions, into which the lower belly is divided by anatomists, namely, the upper, or epigastric; the mid-dle, or umbilical; and the lower, or hypogastric region; we shall rather proceed to examine their différent contents.
In the first place, it deserves to be remarked, that the whole intestinal canal forms one continued tube, of greater or less capacity, beginning with the stomach, and terminating at the anus. This canal is, gene-rally, six times the length of the whole human subject, in proportion to the person's stature, and is by Nature divided into two distinct parts; namely, the anterior, or up-permost, that is next to the stomach, comprizing what are called the thin, or small intestines, which fill the middle, or fore parts, of the belly; and the posterior, or lower-most, where we find the large intestines occupying the sides, and both the upper and lower parts of that cavity. The former are again divided into the duodenum, or twelve-inch gut; the jejunum, or empty gut, and the ileum, or crooked gut; and the latter, or larger portion, into the cœcum, or blind gut; the colon, or hollow gut, being the largest of all the intestines; and the rectum, or the straight excretory gut, which terminates in the anus. On opening the abdomen, we ob-B serve
Serve its viscera and intestines in the following situation: after having re-moved the skin and the muscles, we discover the peritoneum, or a membrane which envelopes all the viscera of the lower belly. This being divided, the omentum, or cawl, appears floating on the surface of the intestines, which are likewise seen in a moist and loose state, making numerous windings through the whole cavity. The viscera next présent themselves in this order: on the uppermost part of the belly, namely, under the midriff, towards the middle, but rather inclining to the right side, lies the liver, and near its concave surface is the gall-bladder; some-what to the left is the stomach, and laterally, contiguous to it, the spleen. The kidneys are placed about the middle of the lumbar region, or the loins, while the urinary bladder, and the parts of generation, are si-tuated in the lower division of the belly; in that bony cavity which is denominated the pelvis, or bason, and the sides of which form what are commonly called the hips.
The situation of these parts, however, in a natural state, fre-quently undergoes considerable variations, especially that of the liver, the stomach, and the spleen : and these deviations, being produced by various causes, as by a different posture of the whole body; disten-tion of the stomach with an unusual quantity of food, either in a solid or liquid form; or, lastly, during preg-nancy; hence it may be understood that, with every preternatural change of their respective positions, there may arise ruptures, spasmodic contractions, callosities, accumulations of water, called dropsy, and many similar complaints. To prevent such disastrous consequences, we canno too strongly inculcate the nccessity of observing strict temperance, par-ticularly with respect to food, drink, and exercise. This proposition may be rendered more evident, by ap-pealing to the experience of those Èuropeans, who have long resided in warm climates, and prudently restrained their sensual appetites; in consequence of which, they have seldom been attacked with diseases of the liver; an organ which cannot fail to become a prey to an irregular mode of living.
The intestines have certain gênerai characters, though each of them manifests its peculiarities. In the former respect, we find that they are all connected with the vertebrae, by means of the mesentery; that each of them consists of different membranes, the innermost coat of which terminates in the intestinal canal itself, and forms semi-lunar valves, inclining towards each other, contracting the tube of that passage, and often appearing in several parts more numerous and conspicuous than in others. Each gut is, far-ther, provided with small glands, for the secretion of a viscid humour, and many small vessels for the absorption of certain fluids. Lastly, ail intestines possess, in common, a certain creeping, called the peris-taltic, or vermicular motion; which is occasioned by the contraction of their muscular fibres, operating in a spiral direction, or obliquely from the upper towards the lower parts ; and they are thus liable to alternate contortions in their respective situ-ations. This curious phenomenon may be clearly perceived for some time after death, and especially in an animal recently opened. By inverting this motion of the stomach and bowels, an effect which may be produced by certain stimulating medicines, for instance, ipeca-cuanha, as well as by a local irritation of the fauces, it will be easily understood, that either nausea or vomiting will be the natural conse-quence, according to the different degrees of the stimulus applied.
The viscera of the abdomen are, in common with other parts of the body, liable to a variety of disorders; the most formidable of which, are those arising from inflammation.
An inflammation of the liver, hi-therto supposed by the generality of physicians to be a very rare disease, has by a late French writer, M. FErrein, been affirmed to be of all diseases the most frequent, and least understood. It often occasions other lasting and dangerous diseases; and, even when removed, unless proper precautions be observed, is liable to return. See the article Liver.
The usual symptoms of inflammations of the lower belly are, pain attended with fever; but thèse are by no means a necessary consequence; as in this, and other dis-eases of the Animal Economy, a slight degree of inflammation may prevail, unaccompanied either by febrile symptoms, or considerable pain. The mode of discovering the existence of inflammation is, to press with the tip of the finger on the seat or the complaint; and, if the viscera be inflamed, the pain will be increas-ed in such manner, as when we touch a bruised or tender part. For the treatment of this dangerous affection, we must refer the reader to the article Inflammation.
In order to protect the tender parts we have now described, from external injury, every judicious person will admit the necessity of adopting such a dress, as is best calculated to answer this useful purpose. Hence, no whalebone, or other stays tightly laced, should be worn by women, nor high and straight waistbands be suffered to impede the free action of the bowels, either in boys or men. It is indeed unreasonable to expect, that the present generation can enjoy the ease and comforts of their less fashionable, though more prudent, forefathers, so long as mankind continue to encourage those customs and habits, which almost every body deprecates, but which few have the resolution either to oppose or abandon.