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Airways and alveoli 

Airways and alveoli
Chapter:
Airways and alveoli
Author(s):

Peter D. Wagner

, and Pallav L. Shah

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0397
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date: 02 March 2021

The lung is the organ of gas exchange, providing the means of transferring oxygen (O2) from the air to the blood by passive diffusion for subsequent distribution to the tissues, and of similarly removing metabolically produced carbon dioxide (CO2) from the blood, which is then exhaled to the atmosphere. The lungs are enclosed within the thoracic cavity. Inspiration is driven by contraction of the intercostal muscles and the diaphragm, which expands the ribcage in both anteroposterior and lateral dimensions, such that the pressure inside the thoracic cavity but external to the lungs is reduced to below that of the air, which is thereby drawn in. Lung diseases of many types commonly affect each of the steps involved in gas exchange, and the clinical consequences can usually be readily understood if the structure–function relationships are known.

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