A ligament of Treitz connects the diaphragm to the small intestine and stimulates movement of material though the small intestine when it expands or contracts. The name is slightly misleading, as it does not connect bones together like true ligaments. Instead, it is a group of three small muscles, one from the diaphragm and two from the small intestine. It was named after Václav Treitz, the Czech pathologist who discovered it.
Depictions of the structure in anatomical textbooks often show it being much larger than it actually is. The muscles that make it up are small and relatively weak, and despite being used for diagnostic purposes for malrotation, the ligament is not strong enough to prevent it from occurring. Its size and shape can also vary, which means that not all operate at exactly the same rate of efficiency.
The ligament of Treitz is located at a very important junction point in the gastrointestinal cavity: the point at which the first section of the small intestine ends and the second section starts. If its location is disturbed in any way, difficulties in both the small intestine and in the gastrointestinal cavity can result. The most severe of these is superior mesenteric artery syndrome, which results in the third section of the small intestine being compressed, causing a potentially life-threatening condition.
Since its location is so specific, it is possible to make educated guesses about the location of injuries relative to it. This is very important in cases of internal bleeding, which must be stopped quickly. Certain types of symptoms signify bleeding on the near side of the ligament, while different symptoms signify bleeding on the far side. This does not conclusively pinpoint where the bleeding occurs, but does identify a smaller search space when time is critical.
The position of the ligament of Treitz can also be used to diagnose a dangerous medical problem in children called malrotation. Malrotation occurs when the intestines did not fix in place properly during development and twist inside the body, causing possible blockages that could lead to organ failure or death. When malrotation occurs, the ligament is pulled out of place by the rotated intestines. Though this can cause severe problems, early detection using the position of the ligament can sometimes enable action to be taken before severe damage results.