Respiratory System

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The respiratory system consists of all the organs involved in breathing. These include the nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs. The respiratory system does two very important things: it brings oxygen into our bodies, which we need for our cells to live and function properly; and it helps us get rid of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of cellular function. The nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea and bronchi all work like a system of pipes through which the air is funnelled down into our lungs. There, in very small air sacs called alveoli, oxygen is brought into the bloodstream and carbon dioxide is pushed from the blood out into the air. When something goes wrong with part of the respiratory system, such as an infection like pneumonia, it makes it harder for us to get the oxygen we need and to get rid of the waste product carbon dioxide. Common respiratory symptoms include breathlessness, cough, and chest pain. [pic]

The Lungs

The lungs are paired, cone-shaped organs which take up most of the space in our chests, along with the heart. Their role is to take oxygen into the body, which we need for our cells to live and function properly, and to help us get rid of carbon dioxide, which is a waste product. We each have two lungs, a left lung and a right lung. These are divided up into 'lobes', or big sections of tissue separated by 'fissures' or dividers. The right lung has three lobes but the left lung has only two, because the heart takes up some of the space in the left side of our chest. The lungs can also be divided up into even smaller portions, called 'bronchopulmonary segments'. These are pyramidal-shaped areas which are also separated from each other by membranes. There are about 10 of them in each lung. Each segment receives its own blood supply and air supply. FUNCTION

Air enters your lungs through a system of pipes called the bronchi. These pipes start from the bottom of the trachea as the left and right bronchi and branch many times throughout the lungs, until they eventually form little thin-walled air sacs or bubbles, known as the alveoli. The alveoli are where the important work of gas exchange takes place between the air and your blood. Covering each alveolus is a whole network of little blood vessel called capillaries, which are very small branches of the pulmonary arteries. It is important that the air in the alveoli and the blood in the capillaries are very close together, so that oxygen and carbon dioxide can move (or diffuse) between them. So, when you breathe in, air comes down the trachea and through the bronchi into the alveoli. This fresh air has lots of oxygen in it, and some of this oxygen will travel across the walls of the alveoli into your bloodstream. Travelling in the opposite direction is carbon dioxide, which crosses from the blood in the capillaries into the air in the alveoli and is then breathed out. In this way, you bring in to your body the oxygen that you need to live, and get rid of the waste product carbon dioxide. [pic]

Blood Supply
The lungs are very vascular organs, meaning they receive a very large blood supply. This is because the pulmonary arteries, which supply the lungs, come directly from the right side of your heart. They carry blood which is low in oxygen and high in carbon dioxide into your lungs so that the carbon dioxide can be blown off, and more oxygen can be absorbed into the bloodstream. The newly oxygen-rich blood then travels back through the paired pulmonary veins into the left side of your heart. From there, it is pumped all around your body to supply oxygen to cells and organs.

The Pleurae
The lungs are covered by smooth membranes that we call pleurae. The pleurae have two layers, a 'visceral' layer which sticks closely to the outside surface of your lungs, and a 'parietal' layer which lines the inside of your chest wall (ribcage). The pleurae are important because they help you...
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