Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology Nursing Study Guide

Breathe life into your understanding with our guide on the respiratory system anatomy and physiology. Nursing students, immerse yourself in the intricate dance of inhalation and exhalation that fuels every living moment.

Table of Contents

Functions of the respiratory system, main bronchi, the respiratory membrane, respiration, mechanics of breathing, respiratory volumes and capacities, respiratory sounds, external respiration, gas transport, and internal respiration, control of respiration, age-related physiological changes in the respiratory system.

The functions of the respiratory system are:

  • Oxygen supplier.  The job of the respiratory system is to keep the body constantly supplied with oxygen.
  • Elimination.  Elimination of carbon dioxide.
  • Gas exchange.  The respiratory system organs oversee the gas exchanges that occur between the blood and the external environment.
  • Passageway.  Passageways that allow air to reach the lungs.
  • Humidifier.  Purify, humidify, and warm incoming air.

Anatomy of the Respiratory System

The organs of the respiratory system include the nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and their smaller branches, and the lungs, which contain the alveoli.

Respiratory System-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

The nose is the only externally visible part of the respiratory system.

Nose Anatomy-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

  • Nostrils.  During breathing, air enters the nose by passing through the nostrils, or nares.
  • Nasal cavity. The interior of the nose consists of the nasal cavity, divided by a midline nasal septum .
  • Olfactory receptors. The olfactory receptors for the sense of smell are located in the mucosa in the slitlike superior part of the nasal cavity, just beneath the ethmoid bone.
  • Respiratory mucosa. The rest of the mucosal lining, the nasal cavity called the respiratory mucosa, rests on a rich network of thin-walled veins that warms the air as it flows past.
  • Mucus.  In addition, the sticky mucus produced by the mucosa’s glands moistens the air and traps incoming bacteria and other foreign debris, and lysozyme enzymes in the mucus destroy bacteria chemically.
  • Ciliated cells. The ciliated cells of the nasal mucosa create a gentle current that moves the sheet of contaminated mucus posteriorly toward the throat, where it is swallowed and digested by stomach juices.
  • Conchae.  The lateral walls of the nasal cavity are uneven owing to three mucosa-covered projections, or lobes called conchae, which greatly increase the surface area of the mucosa exposed to the air, and also increase the air turbulence in the nasal cavity.
  • Palate. The nasal cavity is separated from the oral cavity below by a partition, the palate; anteriorly, where the palate is supported by bone, is the hard palate; the unsupported posterior part is the soft palate .
  • Paranasal sinuses. The nasal cavity is surrounded by a ring of paranasal sinuses located in the frontal, sphenoid, ethmoid, and maxillary bones ; theses sinuses lighten the skull, and they act as a resonance chamber for speech.

Nose and Pharynx Anatomy-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

  • Size. The pharynx is a muscular passageway about 13 cm (5 inches) long that vaguely resembles a short length of red garden hose.
  • Function.  Commonly called the throat , the pharynx serves as a common passageway for food and air.
  • Portions of the pharynx. Air enters the superior portion, the nasopharynx , from the nasal cavity and then descends through the oropharynx and laryngopharynx to enter the larynx below.
  • Pharyngotympanic tube. The pharyngotympanic tubes, which drain the middle ear open into the nasopharynx.
  • Pharyngeal tonsil. The pharyngeal tonsil, often called adenoid is located high in the nasopharynx.
  • Palatine tonsils . The palatine tonsils are in the oropharynx at the end of the soft palate.
  • Lingual tonsils . The lingual tonsils lie at the base of the tongue.

The larynx or voice box routes air and food into the proper channels and plays a role in speech.

  • Structure.  Located inferior to the pharynx, it is formed by eight rigid hyaline cartilages and a spoon-shaped flap of elastic cartilage, the epiglottis .
  • Thyroid cartilage. The largest of the hyaline cartilages is the shield-shaped thyroid cartilage, which protrudes anteriorly and is commonly called Adam’s apple .
  • Epiglottis.  Sometimes referred to as the “guardian of the airways” , the epiglottis protects the superior opening of the larynx.
  • Vocal folds. Part of the mucous membrane of the larynx forms a pair of folds, called the vocal folds, or true vocal cords , which vibrate with expelled air and allows us to speak.
  • Glottis.  The slitlike passageway between the vocal folds is the glottis.

Trachea Anatomy-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

  • Length.  Air entering the trachea or windpipe from the larynx travels down its length (10 to 12 cm or about 4 inches) to the level of the fifth thoracic vertebra , which is approximately midchest.
  • Structure.  The trachea is fairly rigid because its walls are reinforced with C-shaped rings of hyaline cartilage; the open parts of the rings abut the esophagus and allow it to expand anteriorly when we swallow a large piece of food, while the solid portions support the trachea walls and keep it patent, or open, in spite of the pressure changes that occur during breathing.
  • Cilia.  The trachea is lined with ciliated mucosa that beat continuously and in a direction opposite to that of the incoming air as they propel mucus, loaded with dust particles and other debris away from the lungs to the throat, where it can be swallowed or spat out.
  • Structure.  The right and left main (primary) bronchi are formed by the division of the trachea.
  • Location.  Each main bronchus runs obliquely before it plunges into the medial depression of the lung on its own side.
  • Size.  The right main bronchus is wider, shorter, and straighter than the left.

Anatomy of the Lungs-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

  • Location.  The lungs occupy the entire thoracic cavity except for the most central area, the mediastinum , which houses the heart, the great blood vessels, bronchi, esophagus, and other organs.
  • Apex.  The narrow, superior portion of each lung, the apex, is just deep into the clavicle.
  • Base.  The broad lung area resting on the diaphragm is the base.
  • Division.  Each lung is divided into lobes by fissures; the left lung has two lobes , and the right lung has three .
  • Pleura.  The surface of each lung is covered with a visceral serosa called the pulmonary , or visceral pleura, and the walls of the thoracic cavity are lined by the parietal pleura .
  • Pleural fluid. The pleural membranes produce pleural fluid, a slippery serous secretion that allows the lungs to glide easily over the thorax wall during breathing movements and causes the two pleural layers to cling together.
  • Pleural space. The lungs are held tightly to the thorax wall, and the pleural space is more of a potential space than an actual one.
  • Bronchioles .  The smallest of the conducting passageways are the bronchioles.
  • Alveoli.  The terminal bronchioles lead to the respiratory zone structures, even smaller conduits that eventually terminate in alveoli or air sacs.
  • Respiratory zone. The respiratory zone, which includes the respiratory bronchioles, alveolar ducts, alveolar sacs, and alveoli, is the only site of gas exchange .
  • Conducting zone structures. All other respiratory passages are conducting zone structures that serve as conduits to and from the respiratory zone.
  • Stroma.  The balance of the lung tissue, its stroma, is mainly elastic connective tissue that allows the lungs to recoil passively as we exhale.
  • Wall structure. The walls of the alveoli are composed largely of a single, thin layer of squamous epithelial cells.
  • Alveolar pores. Alveolar pores connect neighboring air sacs and provide alternative routes for air to reach alveoli whose feeder bronchioles have been clogged by mucus or otherwise blocked.
  • Respiratory membrane. Together, the alveolar and capillary walls, their fused basement membranes, and occasional elastic fibers construct the respiratory membrane (air-blood barrier), which has gas (air) flowing past on one side and blood flowing past on the other.
  • Alveolar macrophages. Remarkably efficient alveolar macrophages sometimes called “dust cells” , wander in and out of the alveoli picking up bacteria, carbon particles, and other debris.
  • Cuboidal cells. Also scattered amid the epithelial cells that form most of the alveolar walls are chunky cuboidal cells, which produce a lipid (fat) molecule called surfactant , which coats the gas-exposed alveolar surfaces and is very important in lung function.

Physiology of the Respiratory System

The major function of the respiratory system is to supply the body with oxygen and to dispose of carbon dioxide. To do this, at least four distinct events, collectively called respiration, must occur.

  • Pulmonary ventilation . Air must move into and out of the lungs so that gasses in the air sacs are continuously refreshed, and this process is commonly called breathing.
  • External respiration. Gas exchange between the pulmonary blood and alveoli must take place.
  • Respiratory gas transport. Oxygen and carbon dioxide must be transported to and from the lungs and tissue cells of the body via the bloodstream.
  • Internal respiration. At systemic capillaries, gas exchanges must be made between the blood and tissue cells.
  • Rule.  Volume changes lead to pressure changes, which lead to the flow of gasses to equalize pressure.
  • Inspiration.  Air is flowing into the lungs; the chest is expanded laterally, the rib cage is elevated, and the diaphragm is depressed and flattened; lungs are stretched to the larger thoracic volume, causing the intrapulmonary pressure to fall and air to flow into the lungs.
  • Expiration.  Air is leaving the lungs; the chest is depressed and the lateral dimension is reduced, the rib cage is descended, and the diaphragm is elevated and dome-shaped; lungs recoil to a smaller volume, intrapulmonary pressure rises, and air flows out of the lung.
  • Intrapulmonary volume. Intrapulmonary volume is the volume within the lungs.
  • Intrapleural pressure. The normal pressure within the pleural space, the intrapleural pressure, is always negative, and this is the major factor preventing the collapse of the lungs.
  • Nonrespiratory air movements. Nonrespiratory movements are a result of reflex activity, but some may be produced voluntarily such as coughing , sneezing, crying, laughing, hiccups, and yawning.

Respiratory Volumes and Capacities-Respiratory System Anatomy and Physiology

  • Tidal volume. Normal quiet breathing moves approximately 500 ml of air into and out of the lungs with each breath.
  • Inspiratory reserve volume. The amount of air that can be taken in forcibly over the tidal volume is the inspiratory reserve volume, which is normally between 2100 ml to 3200 ml.
  • Expiratory reserve volume. The amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled after a tidal expiration, the expiratory reserve volume, is approximately 1200 ml.
  • Residual volume. Even after the most strenuous expiration, about 1200 ml of air still remains in the lungs and it cannot be voluntarily expelled; this is called residual volume, and it is important because it allows gas exchange to go on continuously even between breaths and helps to keep the alveoli inflated.
  • Vital capacity. The total amount of exchangeable air is typically around 4800 ml in healthy young men, and this respiratory capacity is the vital capacity, which is the sum of the tidal volume, inspiratory reserve volume, and expiratory reserve volume.
  • Dead space volume. Much of the air that enters the respiratory tract remains in the conducting zone passageways and never reaches the alveoli; this is called the dead space volume and during a normal tidal breath, it amounts to about 150 ml.
  • Functional volume. The functional volume, which is the air that actually reaches the respiratory zone and contributes to gas exchange, is about 350 ml.
  • Spirometer.  Respiratory capacities are measured with a spirometer, wherein as a person breathes, the volumes of air exhaled can be read on an indicator, which shows the changes in air volume inside the apparatus.
  • Bronchial sounds. Bronchial sounds are produced by air rushing through the large respiratory passageways (trachea and bronchi).
  • Vesicular breathing sounds. Vesicular breathing sounds occur as air fills the alveoli, and they are soft and resemble a muffled breeze.
  • External respiration. External respiration or pulmonary gas exchange involves oxygen being loaded and carbon dioxide being unloaded from the blood.
  • Internal respiration. In internal respiration or systemic capillary gas exchange, oxygen is unloaded and carbon dioxide is loaded into the blood.
  • Gas transport. Oxygen is transported in the blood in two ways: most attaches to hemoglobin molecules inside the RBCs to form oxyhemoglobin, or a very small amount of oxygen is carried dissolved in the plasma; while carbon dioxide is transported in plasma as bicarbonate ion, or a smaller amount (between 20 to 30 percent of the transported carbon dioxide) is carried inside the RBCs bound to hemoglobin.

Neural Regulation

  • Phrenic and intercostal nerves. These two nerves regulate the activity of the respiratory muscles, the diaphragm, and external intercostals.
  • Medulla and pons. Neural centers that control respiratory rhythm and depth are located mainly in the medulla and pons; the medulla, which sets the basic rhythm of breathing, contains a pacemaker , or self-exciting inspiratory center, and an expiratory center that inhibits the pacemaker in a rhythmic way; pons centers appear to smooth out the basic rhythm of inspiration and expiration set by the medulla.
  • Eupnea.  The normal respiratory rate is referred to as eupnea, and it is maintained at a rate of 12 to 15 respirations/minute .
  • Hyperpnea.  During exercise, we breathe more vigorously and deeply because the brain centers send more impulses to the respiratory muscles, and this respiratory pattern is called hyperpnea.

Non-neural Factors Influencing Respiratory Rate and Depth

  • Physical factors. Although the medulla’s respiratory centers set the basic rhythm of breathing, there is no question that physical factors such as talking, coughing, and exercising can modify both the rate and depth of breathing, as well as an increased body temperature, which increases the rate of breathing.
  • Volition (conscious control). Voluntary control of breathing is limited, and the respiratory centers will simply ignore messages from the cortex (our wishes) when the oxygen supply in the blood is getting low or blood pH is falling .
  • Emotional factors. Emotional factors also modify the rate and depth of breathing through reflexes initiated by emotional stimuli acting through centers in the hypothalamus .
  • Chemical factors. The most important factors that modify respiratory rate and depth are chemical- the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood; increased levels of carbon dioxide and decreased blood pH are the most important stimuli leading to an increase in the rate and depth of breathing, while a decrease in oxygen levels become important stimuli when the levels are dangerously low.
  • Hyperventilation.  Hyperventilation blows off more carbon dioxide and decreases the amount of carbonic acid, which returns blood pH to the normal range when carbon dioxide or other sources of acids begin to accumulate in the blood.
  • Hypoventilation.  Hypoventilation or extremely slow or shallow breathing allows carbon dioxide to accumulate in the blood and brings blood pH back into normal range when blood starts to become slightly alkaline.

Respiratory efficiency is reduced with age. They are unable to compensate for increased oxygen need and are significantly increasing the amount of air inspired. Therefore, difficulty in breathing is usually common especially during activities.  Expiratory muscles become weaker so their cough efficiency is reduced and the amount of air left in the lungs is increased. Health promotion teaching can include smoking cessation, preventing respiratory infections through handwashing , and ensuring up to date influenza and pneumonia vaccinations.

Craving more insights? Dive into these related materials to enhance your study journey!

  • Anatomy and Physiology Nursing Test Banks . This nursing test bank includes questions about Anatomy and Physiology and its related concepts such as: structure and functions of the human body, nursing care management of patients with conditions related to the different body systems.

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  • Biology Article

Human Respiratory System

Respiratory system of humans.

Breathing involves gaseous exchange through inhalation and exhalation. The human respiratory system has the following main structures – Nose, mouth, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Explore in detail.

Table of Contents

  • What Is Respiratory System

Respiratory Tract

Respiratory system definition.

“Human Respiratory System is a network of organs and tissues that helps us breathe. The primary function of this system is to introduce oxygen into the body and expel carbon dioxide from the body.”

What is the Respiratory System?

As defined above, the human respiratory system consists of a group of organs and tissues that help us to breathe. Aside from the lungs, there are also muscles and a vast network of blood vessels that facilitate the process of respiration.

Also Read:  Mechanism of Breathing

Human Respiratory System Diagram

To gain a clearer understanding, we have illustrated the human respiratory system and its different parts involved in the process.

Human Respiratory System

Human Respiratory System Diagram showing different parts of the Respiratory Tract

Features of the Human Respiratory System

The respiratory system in humans has the following important features:

  • The energy is generated by the breakdown of glucose molecules in all living cells of the human body.
  • Oxygen is inhaled and is transported to various parts and are used in the process of burning food particles (breaking down glucose molecules) at the cellular level in a series of chemical reactions.
  • The obtained glucose molecules are used for discharging energy in the form of ATP- (adenosine triphosphate)

Also Read:  Difference between trachea and oesophagus

assignment for respiratory system

Respiratory System Parts and Functions

Let us have a detailed look at the different parts of the respiratory system and their functions.

Humans have exterior nostrils, which are divided by a framework of cartilaginous structure called the septum. This is the structure that separates the right nostril from the left nostril. Tiny hair follicles that cover the interior lining of nostrils act as the body’s first line of defence against foreign pathogens . Furthermore, they provide additional humidity for inhaled air.

Two cartilaginous chords lay the framework for the larynx. It is found in front of the neck and is responsible for vocals as well as aiding respiration. Hence, it is also informally called the voice box. When food is swallowed, a flap called the epiglottis folds over the top of the windpipe and prevents food from entering into the larynx.

Also check: What is the role of epiglottis and diaphragm in respiration?

The nasal chambers open up into a wide hollow space called the pharynx. It is a common passage for air as well as food. It functions by preventing the entry of food particles into the windpipe. The epiglottis is an elastic cartilage, which serves as a switch between the larynx and the oesophagus by allowing the passage of air into the lungs, and food in the  gastrointestinal tract .

Have you ever wondered why we cough when we eat or swallow?

Talking while we eat or swallow may sometimes result in incessant coughing. The reason behind this reaction is the epiglottis. It is forced to open for the air to exit outwards and the food to enter into the windpipe, triggering a cough.

The trachea or the windpipe rises below the larynx and moves down to the neck. The walls of the trachea comprise C-shaped cartilaginous rings which give hardness to the trachea and maintain it by completely expanding. The trachea extends further down into the breastbone and splits into two bronchi, one for each lung.

The trachea splits into two tubes called the bronchi, which enter each lung individually. The bronchi divide into secondary and tertiary bronchioles, and it further branches out into small air-sacs called the alveoli. The alveoli are single-celled sacs of air with thin walls. It facilitates the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules into or away from the bloodstream.

Lungs are the primary organs of respiration in humans and other vertebrates. They are located on either side of the heart, in the thoracic cavity of the chest. Anatomically, the lungs are spongy organs with an estimates total surface area between 50 to 75 sq meters. The primary function of the lungs is to facilitate the exchange of gases between the blood and the air. Interestingly, the right lung is quite bigger and heavier than the left lung.

Also Read:  Respiration

The respiratory tract in humans is made up of the following parts:

  • External nostrils – For the intake of air.
  • Nasal chamber – which is lined with hair and mucus to filter the air from dust and dirt.
  • Pharynx – It is a passage behind the nasal chamber and serves as the common passageway for both air and food.
  • Larynx – Known as the soundbox as it houses the vocal chords, which are paramount in the generation of sound.
  • Epiglottis – It is a flap-like structure that covers the glottis and prevents the entry of food into the windpipe.
  • Trachea – It is a long tube passing through the mid-thoracic cavity.
  • Bronchi – The trachea divides into left and right bronchi.
  • Bronchioles – Each bronchus is further divided into finer channels known as bronchioles.
  • Alveoli – The bronchioles terminate in balloon-like structures known as the alveoli.
  • Lungs – Humans have a pair of lungs, which are sac-like structures and covered by a double-layered membrane known as pleura.

Air is inhaled with the help of nostrils, and in the nasal cavity, the air is cleansed by the fine hair follicles present within them. The cavity also has a group of blood vessels that warm the air. This air then passes to the pharynx, then to the larynx and into the trachea.

The trachea and the bronchi are coated with ciliated epithelial cells and goblet cells (secretory cells) which discharge mucus to moisten the air as it passes through the respiratory tract. It also traps the fine bits of dust or pathogen that escaped the hair in the nasal openings. The motile cilia beat in an ascending motion, such that the mucus and other foreign particles are carried back to the buccal cavity where it may either be coughed out (or swallowed.)

Once the air reaches the bronchus, it moves into the bronchioles, and then into the alveoli.

Respiratory System Functions

The functions of the human respiratory system are as follows:

Inhalation and Exhalation

The respiratory system helps in breathing (also known as pulmonary ventilation.) The air inhaled through the nose moves through the pharynx, larynx, trachea and into the lungs. The air is exhaled back through the same pathway. Changes in the volume and pressure in the lungs aid in pulmonary ventilation.

Exchange of Gases between Lungs and Bloodstream

Inside the lungs, the oxygen and carbon dioxide enter and exit respectively through millions of microscopic sacs called alveoli. The inhaled oxygen diffuses into the pulmonary capillaries, binds to haemoglobin and is pumped through the bloodstream. The carbon dioxide from the blood diffuses into the alveoli and is expelled through exhalation.

Also read: Exchange Of Gases in Plants

Exchange of Gases between Bloodstream and Body Tissues

The blood carries the oxygen from the lungs around the body and releases the oxygen when it reaches the capillaries. The oxygen is diffused through the capillary walls into the body tissues. The carbon dioxide also diffuses into the blood and is carried back to the lungs for release.

The Vibration of the Vocal Cords

While speaking, the muscles in the larynx move the arytenoid cartilage. These cartilages push the vocal cords together. During exhalation, when the air passes through the vocal cords, it makes them vibrate and creates sound.

Olfaction or Smelling

During inhalation, when the air enters the nasal cavities, some chemicals present in the air bind to it and activate the receptors of the nervous system on the cilia. The signals are sent to the olfactory bulbs via the brain.

Also Read:  Respiratory System Disorders

Respiration is one of the metabolic processes which plays an essential role in all living organisms. However, lower organisms like the unicellular do not “breathe” like humans – intead, they utilise the process of diffusion. Annelids like earthworms have a moist cuticle which helps them in gaseous exchange. Respiration in fish occurs through special organs called gills. Most of the higher organisms possess a pair of lungs for breathing.

Also Read:  Amphibolic Pathway

To learn more about respiration, check out the video below:

assignment for respiratory system

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the human respiratory system.

The human respiratory system is a system of organs responsible for inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide in humans. The important respiratory organs in living beings include- lungs, gills, trachea, and skin.

What are the important respiratory system parts in humans?

The important human respiratory system parts include- Nose, larynx, pharynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs.

What is the respiratory tract made up of?

The respiratory tract is made up of nostrils, nasal chamber, larynx, pharynx, epiglottis, trachea, bronchioles, bronchi, alveoli, and lungs.

What are the main functions of the respiratory system?

The important functions of the respiratory system include- inhalation and exhalation of gases, exchange of gases between bloodstream and lungs, the gaseous exchange between bloodstream and body tissues, olfaction and vibration of vocal cords.

What are the different types of respiration in humans?

The different types of respiration in humans include- internal respiration, external respiration and cellular respiration. Internal respiration includes the exchange of gases between blood and cells, external respiration is the breathing process, whereas cellular respiration is the metabolic reactions taking place in the cells to produce energy.

What are the different stages of aerobic respiration?

Aerobic respiration is the process of breaking down glucose to produce energy. It occurs in the following different stages- glycolysis, pyruvate oxidation, citric acid cycle or Krebs cycle, and electron transport system.

Why do the cells need oxygen?

Our body cells require oxygen to release energy. The oxygen inhaled during respiration is used to break down the food to release energy.

What is the main difference between breathing and respiration in humans?

Breathing is the physical process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide in and out of our lungs. On the contrary, respiration is the chemical process where oxygen is utilized to break down glucose to generate energy to carry out different cellular processes.

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The major structures in the respiratory system include the nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, lungs, and bronchioles

Top 5 Functions of the Respiratory System: A Look Inside Key Respiratory Activities

Through breathing, inhalation and exhalation, the respiratory system facilitates the exchange of gases between the air and the blood and between the blood and the body’s cells. The respiratory system also helps us to smell and create sound. The following are the five key functions of the respiratory system.

Overview of the upper respiratory system, the nasal cavity and throat

Breathing In and Speaking Out: How the Structures of the Upper Respiratory System Work

The structures of the upper respiratory system, or respiratory tract, allow us to breathe and speak.

  • The nose and nasal cavities provide airways for respiration.
  • The paranasal sinuses surround the nasal cavities.
  • The pharynx connects the nasal and oral cavities to the larynx and esophagus.
  • The larynx and vocal cords allow us to breathe and talk and sing.
  • Structures that produce sound depend on the hyoid bone.

Structures of the lower respiratory system consist of trachea, bronchii, bronchioles, thoracic cage, lungs, and diaphragm

Drawing In and Processing Air: Functions of the Trachea, Bronchi, Lungs, and Alveoli

  • Trachea: the main airway to the lungs
  • Bronchi: passageways that bring air in and out of the lungs
  • Lungs: structures responsible for gas exchange between the air we breathe and our bodies
  • Alveoli: microscopic air sacs that are the site of external respiration
  • Diaphragm: the muscle that is key to the physical process of breathing

Common respiratory issues range from collapsed lung (pictured) to bronchitis, asthma, and others

Common Respiratory Diseases and Disorders: COPD, Asthma, Sinusitis, Influenza, and Pneumothorax

  • Most respiratory diseases and disorders can be described as either infectious or chronic.
  • Inflamed airways become irritated during inhalation during an asthma attack.
  • Sinusitis is the inflammation of mucous membranes in the nasal sinuses.
  • The flu virus can pass through the air from one person to another.
  • Chest trauma can cause pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.

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6.1: Lab 6: Respiratory System

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Measurable Outcomes

  • Understand and identify the anatomical structures of the respiratory system on available models.
  • Deduce the pathway of air through the respiratory system.
  • Determine the pathway of pulmonary circulation.
  • Identify the various muscles involved in respiration.
  • Recognize the hallmarks of lung histology.
  • Demonstrate an adequate understand of the material in this section.

The respiratory system is responsible for the gas exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The main specialized organs of this process are the lungs which house clusters of sac-like structures known as alveoli . There are from 480 to 790 million alveoli which increase the efficiency of gas exchange by increasing surface area to around 118m 2 in men and 91m 2 in women. The respiratory system consists of the nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs, bronchi, bronchioles , and alveoli , along with their accessory structures. These structures are divided into the upper and lower respiratory systems , with the lower portion beginning at the larynx. The primary function of this system is to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment. Functionally, the respiratory system can be divided into the conducting zone , terminating at the terminal bronchioles; then air flows into the respiratory zone, where the actual gas exchange occurs.

Though we view each system individually in this lab, it is important to keep in mind that all organ systems overlap and work together in such a way that scientist are constantly discovering new connections. One such example is the nose . Not only is it the primary entrance and exit for respiration, but it also contains the olfactory epithelium, the primary structure of one of the special senses, olfaction. Likewise, the pharynx is a structure shared by both the respiratory and digestion systems.

Although both lungs functionally participate in respiration, they differ physically in various ways. The right lung is shorter and wider than the left lung, and the left lung occupies a smaller volume than the right. Another distinction between the two lungs is that the left lung contains the cardiac notch , which makes space for the heart. Furthermore, whereas the right lung has three lobes, the left lung has only two.

Though not visible on every model, each lung is surrounded by the pleura, which consists of two layers called the visceral and parietal pleurae. They are important because they lubricate the lungs and reduce friction during inhalation and exhalation.

Vocabulary for Respiratory System can be found on page(s) 169 .

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19.4: Laboratory Activities and Assignment

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  • Page ID 53810

  • Rosanna Hartline
  • West Hills College Lemoore

Laboratory Activities and Assignment

Part 1: review of the respiratory system.

1. Put the following structures in order as indicated by each part a. and b. below:

a. Put the structures in order air passes through from entry into the respiratory system to the point of gas exchange with the blood (this order follows the path of O 2 into the body):

b. Put the structures in order air passes through from gas exchange with the blood to its exit from the respiratory system (this order follows the path of CO 2 out of the body):

2. Label the diagram below with the following structures:

Diagram of respiratory anatomy for labeling

2. Label the diagram of the respiratory mucosa lining much of the large airways of the respiratory tract with the structures listed below.

Tissue diagram for labeling

3. Below is a microscopic image of lung tissue magnified by 100x. Label the following structures:

Microscopic image of lung tissue for labeling

4. Below is a diagram of alveolar structures with a tissue section showing some of those alveolar structures. Label the following on both the figure and the microscopic tissue section where possible.

Part 2: Examining the Histology of the Respiratory System

  • Obtain the slides listed below that are available for today’s lab.
  • Focus on each sample and identify the structures listed for each type of tissue.
  • Indicate the total magnification you make each illustration at in the space provided.
  • Illustrate each tissue you observe with the microscope at the magnification you listed.
  • Label each illustration with the structures listed for each.

Trachea Cross Section

Illustrations at more than one magnification will be required.

Label the tissue with: trachea, esophagus, cartilage ring, opening in cartilage ring, lumen, pseudostratified ciliated columnar epithelium, goblet cells, cilia, basement membrane, lamina propria, elastic lamina, mixed glands, hyaline cartilage

Lung Tissue

More than one illustration will required with more than one magnification.

Label the tissue with: secondary bronchi, cartilage plates, pulmonary blood vessels, bronchioles, terminal bronchiole, respiratory bronchiole, alveolar ducts, alveoli, type I alveolar cells, interalveolar septum, endothelium, pulmonary capillary, connective tissue, alveolar lumen

Part 3: Mechanism of Breathing (Balloon-and-Bell Jar Model)

  • Balloon-and-bell jar

Instructions & Questions

  • Pull down the rubber sheet. What happens to the balloons? ___ .
  • This represents the downward movement of the human __ , which causes the chest cavity to become _______ (larger/smaller). This, in turn, causes the human _ _____ to expand and fill with air.
  • Release the rubber sheet. What happens to the balloons?______________.
  • This represents relaxed __________ (inhaling/exhaling), when the chest cavity becomes smaller and the lungs deflate. Note that this is a passive process.
  • What organs do the balloons represent? __________________
  • What does the rubber sheet you pulled on represent? ____________________

Attributions

  • "Digital Histology" by Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology and the Office of Faculty Affairs , Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and the ALT Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University is licensed under CC BY 4.0
  • "Respiratory system complete no labels.svg" by Bibi Saint-Pol, Jmarch is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
  • "BIOL 250 Human Anatomy Lab Manual SU 19" by Yancy Aquino , Skyline College is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
  • "Principles of Biology II Lab Manual (BIOL 1108) " by Dalton State is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Respiratory System (Anatomy)

Respiratory System (Anatomy)

Definition: The respiratory system (also referred to as the ventilator system) is a complex biological system comprised of several organs that facilitate the inhalation and exhalation of oxygen and carbon dioxide in living organisms (or, in other words, breathing). Most of the organs of the respiratory system help to distribute air, but only the tiny, grape-like alveoli and the alveolar ducts are responsible for actual gas exchange.

In addition to air distribution and gas exchange, the respiratory system filters warm and humidify the air we breathe. Organs in the respiratory system also play a role in speech and the sense of smell. It also helps the body maintain homeostasis, or balance among the many elements of the body’s internal environment.

In most fish, and a number of other aquatic animals (both vertebrates and invertebrates) the respiratory system consists of gills, which are either partially or completely external organs, bathed in the watery environment. Other animals, such as insects, have respiratory systems with very simple anatomical features, and in amphibians, even the skin plays a vital role in gas exchange. Plants also have respiratory systems but the directionality of gas exchange can be opposite to that in animals. The respiratory system in plants includes anatomical features such as stomata, that are found in various parts of the plant.

A properly functioning respiratory system is a vital part of our good health. Respiratory infections can be acute and sometimes life-threatening. They can also be chronic, in which case they place tremendous long-term stress on the immune system, endocrine system, HPA axis, and much more.

Anatomy of the Respiratory System: In humans and other mammals, the anatomy of a typical respiratory system is the respiratory tract. The tract is divided into an upper and a lower respiratory tract. The upper tract includes the nose, nasal cavities, sinuses, pharynx and the part of the larynx above the vocal folds. The lower tract includes the lower part of the larynx, the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and the alveoli.

assignment for respiratory system

The respiratory system is divided into two main components:

Upper respiratory tract: Composed of the nose, the pharynx, and the larynx, the organs of the upper respiratory tract are located outside the chest cavity.

  • Nasal cavity: Inside the nose, the sticky mucous membrane lining the nasal cavity traps dust particles, and tiny hairs called cilia help move them to the nose to be sneezed or blown out.
  • Sinuses: These air-filled spaces alongside the nose help make the skull lighter.
  • Pharynx: Both food and air pass through the pharynx before reaching their appropriate destinations. The pharynx also plays a role in speech.
  • Larynx: The larynx is essential to human speech.

Lower respiratory tract: Composed of the trachea, the lungs, and all segments of the bronchial tree (including the alveoli), the organs of the lower respiratory tract are located inside the chest cavity.

  • Trachea: Located just below the larynx, the trachea is the main airway to the lungs.
  • Lungs: Together the lungs form one of the body’s largest organs. They’re responsible for providing oxygen to capillaries and exhaling carbon dioxide.
  • Bronchi: The bronchi branch from the trachea into each lung and create the network of intricate passages that supply the lungs with air.
  • Diaphragm: The diaphragm is the main respiratory muscle that contracts and relaxes to allow air into the lungs.

The major organs of the respiratory system function primarily to provide oxygen to body tissues for cellular respiration, remove the waste product carbon dioxide, and help to maintain acid-base balance. Portions of the respiratory system are also used for non-vital functions, such as sensing odors, speech production, and for straining, such as during childbirth or coughing.

The alveoli are the dead end terminals of the “tree”, meaning that any air that enters them has to exit via the same route. A system such as this creates dead space, a volume of air (about 150 ml in the adult human) that fills the airways after exhalation and is breathed back into the alveoli before the environmental air reaches them. At the end of inhalation, the airways are filled with environmental air, which is exhaled without coming in contact with the gas exchanger.

Functionally, the respiratory system can be divided into a conducting zone and a respiratory zone. The conducting zone of the respiratory system includes the organs and structures not directly involved in gas exchange. The gas exchange occurs in the respiratory zone.

  • Conducting Zone – The major functions of the conducting zone are to provide a route for incoming and outgoing air, remove debris and pathogens from the incoming air, and warm and humidify the incoming air. Several structures within the conducting zone perform other functions as well. The epithelium of the nasal passages, for example, is essential to sensing odors, and the bronchial epithelium that lines the lungs can metabolize some airborne carcinogens.
  • Respiratory Zone – In contrast to the conducting zone, the respiratory zone includes structures that are directly involved in gas exchange. The respiratory zone begins where the terminal bronchioles join a respiratory bronchiole, the smallest type of bronchiole, which then leads to an alveolar duct, opening into a cluster of alveoli.

Homeostatic Control of Respiration: The last physiological role of the respiratory system is the homeostatic control of respiration or, in other words, the body’s ability to maintain a steady breathing rate. This is termed eupnea. This state should remain constant until the body has a demand for increased oxygen and carbon dioxide levels due to increased exertion, most likely caused by physical activity. When this happens, chemoreceptors will pick up on the increased partial pressure of the oxygen and carbon dioxide and send triggers to the brain. The brain will then signal the respiratory center to make adjustments to the breathing rate and depth in order to face the increased demands.

Clinical significance of the Respiratory system:

Disorders of the respiratory system can be classified into several general groups:

  • Airway obstructive conditions (e.g., emphysema, bronchitis, asthma)
  • Pulmonary restrictive conditions (e.g., fibrosis, sarcoidosis, alveolar damage, pleural effusion)
  • Vascular diseases (e.g., pulmonary edema, pulmonary embolism, pulmonary hypertension)
  • Infectious, environmental and other “diseases” (e.g., pneumonia, tuberculosis, asbestosis, particulate pollutants)
  • Primary cancers (e.g. bronchial carcinoma, mesothelioma)
  • Secondary cancers (e.g. cancers that originated elsewhere in the body, but have seeded themselves in the lungs)
  • Insufficient surfactant (e.g. respiratory distress syndrome in pre-term babies).

Disorders of the respiratory system are usually treated by a pulmonologist and respiratory therapist.

Information Source:

  • opentextbc.ca
  • healthline.com
  • adrenalfatiguesolution.com

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    The respiratory system, also called the pulmonary system, consists of several organs that function as a whole to oxygenate the body through the process of respiration (breathing). This process involves inhaling air and conducting it to the lungs where gas exchange occurs, in which oxygen is extracted from the air, and carbon dioxide expelled ...

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    Respiratory zone. The respiratory zone, which includes the respiratory bronchioles, alveolar ducts, alveolar sacs, and alveoli, is the only site of gas exchange. Conducting zone structures. All other respiratory passages are conducting zone structures that serve as conduits to and from the respiratory zone. Stroma.

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