Anatomy & Physiology 22 The Respiratory System


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Anatomy & Physiology 22 The Respiratory System
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Question: If a person sustains an injury to the epiglottis, what would be the physiological result?


The epiglottis is a region of the larynx that is important during the swallowing of food or drink. As a person swallows, the pharynx moves upward and the epiglottis closes over the trachea, preventing food or drink from entering the trachea. If a person's epiglottis were injured, this mechanism would be impaired. As a result, the person may have problems with food or drink entering the trachea, and possibly, the lungs. Over time, this may cause infections such as pneumonia to set in.

Question: Watch this video ( to see the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues. Why is oxygenated blood bright red, whereas deoxygenated blood tends to be more of a purple color?


When oxygen binds to the hemoglobin molecule, oxyhemoglobin is created, which has a red color to it. Hemoglobin that is not bound to oxygen tends to be more of a blue-purple color. Oxygenated blood traveling through the systemic arteries has large amounts of oxyhemoglobin. As blood passes through the tissues, much of the oxygen is released into systemic capillaries. The deoxygenated blood returning through the systemic veins, therefore, contains much smaller amounts of oxyhemoglobin. The more oxyhemoglobin that is present in the blood, the redder the fluid will be. As a result, oxygenated blood will be much redder in color than deoxygenated blood.

Question: Visit this site ( to learn more about what happens during an asthma attack. What are the three changes that occur inside the airways during an asthma attack?


Inflammation and the production of a thick mucus; constriction of the airway muscles, or bronchospasm; and an increased sensitivity to allergens.

Question: Describe the three regions of the pharynx and their functions.


The pharynx has three major regions. The first region is the nasopharynx, which is connected to the posterior nasal cavity and functions as an airway. The second region is the oropharynx, which is continuous with the nasopharynx and is connected to the oral cavity at the fauces. The laryngopharynx is connected to the oropharynx and the esophagus and trachea. Both the oropharynx and laryngopharynx are passageways for air and food and drink.

Question: Compare and contrast the conducting and respiratory zones.


The conducting zone of the respiratory system includes the organs and structures that are not directly involved in gas exchange, but perform other duties such as providing a passageway for air, trapping and removing debris and pathogens, and warming and humidifying incoming air. Such structures include the nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and most of the bronchial tree. The respiratory zone includes all the organs and structures that are directly involved in gas exchange, including the respiratory bronchioles, alveolar ducts, and alveoli.

Question: Why are the pleurae not damaged during normal breathing?


There is a cavity, called the pleural cavity, between the parietal and visceral layers of the pleura. Mesothelial cells produce and secrete pleural fluid into the pleural cavity that acts as a lubricant. Therefore, as you breathe, the pleural fluid prevents the two layers of the pleura from rubbing against each other and causing damage due to friction.

Question: What is respiratory rate and how is it controlled?


Respiratory rate is defined as the number of breaths taken per minute. Respiratory rate is controlled by the respiratory center, located in the medulla oblongata. Conscious thought can alter the normal respiratory rate through control by skeletal muscle, although one cannot consciously stop the rate altogether. A typical resting respiratory rate is about 14 breaths per minute.

Question: Watch this video ( to learn more about lung volumes and spirometers. Explain how spirometry test results can be used to diagnose respiratory diseases or determine the effectiveness of disease treatment.


Patients with respiratory ailments (such as asthma, emphysema, COPD, etc.) have issues with airway resistance and/or lung compliance. Both of these factors can interfere with the patient's ability to move air effectively. A spirometry test can determine how much air the patient can move into and out of the lungs. If the air volumes are low, this can indicate that the patient has a respiratory disease or that the treatment regimen may need to be adjusted. If the numbers are normal, the patient does not have a significant respiratory disease or the treatment regimen is working as expected.

Question: Outline the steps involved in quiet breathing.


Quiet breathing occurs at rest and without active thought. During quiet breathing, the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles work at different extents, depending on the situation. For inspiration, the diaphragm contracts, causing the diaphragm to flatten and drop towards the abdominal cavity, helping to expand the thoracic cavity. The external intercostal muscles contract as well, causing the rib cage to expand, and the rib cage and sternum to move outward, also expanding the thoracic cavity. Expansion of the thoracic cavity also causes the lungs to expand, due to the adhesiveness of the pleural fluid. As a result, the pressure within the lungs drops below that of the atmosphere, causing air to rush into the lungs. In contrast, expiration is a passive process. As the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax, the lungs and thoracic tissues recoil, and the volume of the lungs decreases. This causes the pressure within the lungs to increase above that of the atmosphere, causing air to leave the lungs.

Question: Describe what is meant by the term "lung compliance."


Lung compliance refers to the ability of lung tissue to stretch under pressure, which is determined in part by the surface tension of the alveoli and the ability of the connective tissue to stretch. Lung compliance plays a role in determining how much the lungs can change in volume, which in turn helps to determine pressure and air movement.

Question: Compare and contrast the right and left lungs.


The right and left lungs differ in size and shape to accommodate other organs that encroach on the thoracic region. The right lung consists of three lobes and is shorter than the left lung, due to the position of the liver underneath it. The left lung consist of two lobes and is longer and narrower than the right lung. The left lung has a concave region on the mediastinal surface called the cardiac notch that allows space for the heart.

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Disclaimer:  This course does NOT provide the education or experience needed for the diagnosing or treating any medical condition, all site contents are provided as general information only and should not be taken as medical advice.
Source:  OpenStax College. Anatomy & Physiology, OpenStax-CNX Web site., Jun 11, 2014
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