Trachea: anatomy and functions

The trachea is a very important part of the respiratory system of vertebrate animals (it is not only in humans). It can be described as a cartilaginous tube that connects the nose and mouth with the bronchi and lungs.

Through this tube, the inspired air reaches the bronchi and lungs, and this is its main function, to offer an open path to the outside from the lungs, so any problem in the trachea is very dangerous and can put risk his own life.

Anatomy and structure of the trachea

The trachea is considered as the first part of the lower respiratory tract. It is located in the front part of the neck. It begins after the larynx, to which it joins through the cricoid cartilageand ends at carina where it divides into the two primary bronchi, the left and the right.

trachea anatomy
Main anatomical elements of the trachea

The trachea is made up of a tube made up of cartilaginous rings that give it a semi-rigid consistency. It consists of a total of 16 rings C-shaped (not completely closed) joined by various ligaments.

In the inner lumen of the trachea, the rings are lined by a mucous membrane with numerous cilia, villus-like structures that help move mucus out as well as other objects that could block the airway.

The average length of the trachea in an adult is between 10 and 12 cm and a diameter between 16 and 18 mm. The diameter varies considerably according to age, from 6 mm in children from 1 to 4 years old, 8 mm from 4 to 12 years old, 10 mm from 8 to 12 years old, 13 – 15 mm in adolescents. This diameter is important in the case of tracheotomies to choose the correct cannulas according to the patient's age.

Functions and cough reflex

  1. Breathing: The main function of the trachea is to conduct air from the mouth and nose to the lungs.
  2. Defense and cough reflex: the ciliated mucosa that lines the inside of the trachea helps to trap harmful substances and particles that can be carried by inhaled air so that they do not reach the lungs. In addition, the cough reflex is produced to try to expel particles or objects that accidentally reach the trachea.
  3. thermal regulation: like the nose, the trachea humidifies and regulates the temperature of the inhaled air to avoid an exaggerated contrast between the air and the pulmonary alveoli.

The cough reflex

The trachea is connected to the same tube system that performs swallowing (swallowing). The larynx joins the mouth, esophagus (digestive system), and trachea.

The cough It is a mechanism of the respiratory system to prevent suffocation and respiratory failure due to the presence of objects that can block the trachea, for example the food itself.

Cough is a reflex action characterized by a sudden spasmodic contraction of the chest cavity, sometimes repeatedly, which causes the sudden exit of the air contained in the lungs in order to remove objects from the respiratory system.

Diseases of the trachea and medical considerations

Any damage to the trachea can seriously affect breathing and may require intubation. Intubation is a procedure in which a tube is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea to allow air to pass into the lungs. Some situations of fracture and tracheal inflammation may require surgical intervention, called a tracheotomy, to clear the air passage. The tracheotomy is performed under general anesthesia in the patient, except in cases of extreme urgency, and consists of making an incision in the throat area to make a hole in the trachea through which to insert a tube that provides the necessary ventilation for the respiratory apparatus.

Inflammation of the trachea can lead to other diseases, such as tracheitis, which is inflammation of the tracheal lining. Tracheobronchitis occurs when there is inflammation in the mucous membrane of the trachea and the bronchi. Tracheomalacia is a disease caused by degeneration of the cartilage of the trachea; most cases occur as congenital tracheomalacia, a disease of genetic origin. Some infections can lead to tracheomegaly (abnormally large trachea). Most conditions of the trachea produce a persistent dry, irritating cough.

Go up