Trachea (or Windpipe) Location, Anatomy, and Physiology

Author: Scott A. Sheffield MS

Last update:

  • The image descriptiontrachea (or windpipe) is a 4-5 inch (= 10-12 cm) vertical tube that runs through the neck and chest, just anterior to the image descriptionesophagus.
Anterior view of a body silhouette with the trachea, heart, lungs and pleura drawn.
The trachea shown labeled and highlighted
The esophagus shown labeled and highlighted
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  • Many consider the trachea to be the first portion of the lower respiratory tract, which also includes the bronchi, bronchioles, and lungs.
  • The trachea has a wide lumen (= 1 inch or 2.5 cm) and functions to image descriptionconduct air¬†between the larynx and (primary) bronchi.
Anterior View of the Lungs
The larynx and primary bronchus labeled
Air is conducted in trachea
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  • Embedded in the wall of the are 16 to 20 image descriptiontracheal rings¬†made of hyaline cartilage.

Learn more about the structures of the respiratory system with this interactive quiz guide.

The cartilage rings and esophagus on cross section view
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  • The cartilage rings stiffen the tracheal wall so the lumen stays open during breathing.
  • In back, the rings are incomplete, giving them a characteristic image descriptionC-shape.
The cartilage rings and esophagus on cross section view
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An Overview of the Trachea Location, Anatomy, and Physiology:

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