The lungs are the primary organs of the respiratory system in humans and many other animals including a few fish and some snails. In mammals and most other vertebrates, two lungs are located near the backbone on either side of the heart. Their function in the respiratory system is to extract oxygen from the atmosphere and transfer it into the bloodstream, and to release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere, in a process of gas exchange. Respiration is driven by different muscular systems in different species. Mammals, reptiles and birds use their different muscles to support and foster breathing. In early tetrapods, air was driven into the lungs by the pharyngeal muscles via buccal pumping, a mechanism still seen in amphibians. In humans, the main muscle of respiration that drives breathing is the diaphragm. The lungs also provide airflow that makes vocal sounds including human speech possible.

Humans have two lungs, a right lung, and a left lung. They are situated within the thoracic cavity of the chest. The right lung is bigger than the left, which shares space in the chest with the heart. The lungs together weigh approximately 1.3 kilograms (2.9 lb), and the right is heavier. The lungs are part of the lower respiratory tract that begins at the trachea and branches into the bronchi and bronchioles, and which receive air breathed in via the conducting zone. The conducting zone ends at the terminal bronchioles. These divide into the respiratory bronchioles of the respiratory zone which divide into alveolar ducts that give rise to the alveolar sacs that contain the alveoli, where gas exchange takes place. Alveoli are also sparsely present on the walls of the respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts. Together, the lungs contain approximately 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) of airways and 300 to 500 million alveoli. Each lung is enclosed within a pleural sac that contains pleural fluid, which allows the inner and outer walls to slide over each other whilst breathing takes place, without much friction. This sac also divides each lung into sections called lobes. The right lung has three lobes and the left has two. The lobes are further divided into bronchopulmonary segments and pulmonary lobules. The lungs have a unique blood supply, receiving deoxygenated blood from the heart in the pulmonary circulation for the purposes of receiving oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, and a separate supply of oxygenated blood to the tissue of the lungs, in the bronchial circulation.

The tissue of the lungs can be affected by a number of respiratory diseases, including pneumonia and lung cancer. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and can be related to smoking or exposure to harmful substances. A number of occupational lung diseases can be caused by substances such as coal dust, asbestos fibres, and crystalline silica dust. Diseases such as bronchitis can also affect the respiratory tract. Medical terms related to the lung often begin with pulmo-, from the Latin pulmonarius (of the lungs) as in pulmonology, or with pneumo- (from Greek πνεύμων "lung") as in pneumonia.

In embryonic development, the lungs begin to develop as an outpouching of the foregut, a tube which goes on to form the upper part of the digestive system. When the lungs are formed the fetus is held in the fluid-filled amniotic sac and so they do not function to breathe. Blood is also diverted from the lungs through the ductus arteriosus. At birth however, air begins to pass through the lungs, and the diversionary duct closes, so that the lungs can begin to respire. The lungs only fully develop in early childhood.


Structure of the human lungs

The lungs are located in the chest on either side of the heart in the rib cage. They are conical in shape with a narrow rounded apex at the top, and a broad concave base that rests on the convex surface of the diaphragm. The apex of the lung extends into the root of the neck, reaching shortly above the level of the sternal end of the first rib. The lungs stretch from close to the backbone in the rib cage to the front of the chest and downwards from the lower part of the trachea to the diaphragm. The left lung shares space with the heart, and has an indentation in its border called the cardiac notch of the left lung to accommodate this. The front and outer sides of the lungs face the ribs, which make light indentations on their surfaces. The medial surfaces of the lungs face towards the centre of the chest, and lie against the heart, great vessels, and the carina where the trachea divides into the two main bronchi. The cardiac impression is an indentation formed on the surfaces of the lungs where they rest against the heart.

Both lungs have a central recession called the hilum at the root of the lung, where the blood vessels and airways pass into the lungs.There are also bronchopulmonary lymph nodes on the hilum.

The lungs are surrounded by the pulmonary pleurae. The pleurae are two serous membranes; the outer parietal pleura lines the inner wall of the rib cage and the inner visceral pleura directly lines the surface of the lungs. Between the pleurae is a potential space called the pleural cavity containing a thin layer of lubricating pleural fluid.

Left lung

The left lung is divided into two lobes, an upper and a lower lobe, by the oblique fissure, which extends from the costal to the mediastinal surface of the lung both above and below the hilum. The left lung, unlike the right, does not have a middle lobe, though it does have a homologous feature, a projection of the upper lobe termed the lingula. Its name means "little tongue". The lingula on the left lung serves as an anatomic parallel to the middle lobe on the right lung, with both areas being predisposed to similar infections and anatomic complications. There are two bronchopulmonary segments of the lingula: superior and inferior.

The mediastinal surface of the left lung has a large cardiac impression where the heart sits. This is deeper and larger than that on the right lung, at which level the heart projects to the left.

On the same surface, immediately above the hilum, is a well-marked curved groove for the aortic arch, and a groove below it for the descending aorta. The left subclavian artery, a branch off the aortic arch, sits in a groove from the arch to near the apex of the lung. A shallower groove in front of the artery and near the edge of the lung, lodges the left brachiocephalic vein. The esophagus may sit in a wider shallow impression at the base of the lung.

Bronchial airways

In the bronchi there are incomplete tracheal rings of cartilage and smaller plates of cartilage that keep them open. Bronchioles are too narrow to support cartilage and their walls are of smooth muscle, and this is largely absent in the narrower respiratory bronchioles which are mainly just of epithelium.The absence of cartilage in the terminal bronchioles gives them an alternative name of membranous bronchioles.

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Journal of Clinicalimmunology And Allergy