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The Trachea

Table of Contents
The Lungs
The Trachea
The Testes
The Submaxillary Gland
The Liver
The Stomach and Duodenum
The Blood
The Arteries and Veins
The Adipose Tissue
The Skin
The Pituitary Gland
The Pancreas
The Thyroid
The Kidney
The Spinal Cord
The Cerebellum
The Elastic Cartilage
The Bone
The Smooth Muscle
The Striated Muscle


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The trachea serves as the airway of the body, providing a passage for oxygen to reach the lungs, where it can diffuse into the body and be directed to various organs. The trachea is from 10 to 12 cm in length, and branches off into the two primary bronchi at about mid-way down the chest.


The tube of the trachea is reinforced with strong rings made of hyaline cartilage. The main purpose of these rings is to keep the trachea open while breathing. Without the cartilage rings, the trachea would collapse in on itself during respiration due to changes in the air pressure, much like the lungs do.


The secondary purpose of the trachea is to allow the esophagus to expand anteriorly when it swallows food. Because the hyaline rings of the trachea lie adjacent to the esophagus, it forces the esophagus to expand backwards when food is being swallowed, otherwise the descending food could cause the trachea to close.


The trachea is lined with a specialized ciliated mucosa. The cilia act to move debris such as dust particles in the opposite direction of the traveling air, allowing them to be expelled out of the mouth through coughing.


The blockage of the trachea can be lethal if not fixed, and in severe cases where coughing is not enough to remove a blockage, the Heimlich maneuver must be performed in order to remove the debris. In very extreme cases, a tracheotomy may be performed, where the trachea is opened surgically to allow another way for air to reach the lungs.