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The Pathway of Air, Inspiration and Expiration


gafacom image result for Inspiration and ExpirationWhen one breathes air in at sea level, the inhalation is composed of different gases. These gases and their quantities are Oxygen which makes up 21%, Nitrogen which is 78%, Carbon Dioxide with 0.04% and others with significantly smaller portions.

In the process of breathing, air enters into the nasal cavity through the nostrils and is filtered by coarse hairs (vibrissae) and mucous that are found there. The vibrissae filter macro-particles, which are particles of large size. Dust, pollen, smoke, and fine particles are trapped in the mucous that lines the nasal cavities (hollow spaces within the bones of the skull that warm, moisten, and filter the air). There are three bony projections inside the nasal cavity. The superior, middle, and inferior nasal conchae. Air passes between these conchae via the nasal meatuses.


Air       then     travels past      the       nasopharynx,   oropharynx,     and
Laryngopharynx, which are the three portions that make up the pharynx. The pharynx is a funnel-shaped tube that connects our nasal and oral cavities to the larynx. The tonsils which are part of the lymphatic system, form a ring at the connection of the oral cavity and the pharynx. Here, they protect against foreign invasion of antigens. 

Therefore the respiratory tract aids the immune system through this protection. Then the air travels through the larynx. The larynx closes at the epiglottis to prevent the passage of food or drink as a protection to our trachea and lungs. The larynx is also our voice box; it contains vocal cords, in which it produces sound. Sound is produced from the vibration of the vocal cords when air passes through them.

The trachea, which is also known as our windpipe, has ciliated cells and mucous secreting cells lining it, and is held open by C-shaped cartilage rings. One of its functions is similar to the larynx and nasal cavity, by way of protection from dust and other particles. The dust will adhere to the sticky mucous and the cilia helps propel it back up the trachea, to where it is either swallowed or coughed up. The mucociliary escalator extends from the top of the trachea all the way down to the bronchioles, which we will discuss later. Through the trachea, the air is now able to pass into the bronchi.

Inspiration

Inspiration is initiated by contraction of the diaphragm and in some cases the intercostals muscles when they receive nervous impulses. During normal quiet breathing, the phrenic nerves stimulate the diaphragm to contract and move downward into the abdomen. This downward movement of the diaphragm enlarges the thorax. When necessary, the intercostal muscles also increase the thorax by contacting and drawing the ribs upward and outward.




As the diaphragm contracts inferiorly and thoracic muscles pull the chest wall outwardly, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases. The lungs are held to the thoracic wall by negative pressure in the pleural cavity, a very thin space filled with a few milliliters of lubricating pleural fluid. The negative pressure in the pleural cavity is enough to hold the lungs open in spite of the inherent elasticity of the tissue. 

Hence, as the thoracic cavity increases in volume the lungs are pulled from all sides to expand, causing a drop in the pressure (a partial vacuum) within the lung itself (but note that this negative pressure is still not as great as the negative pressure within the pleural cavity--otherwise the lungs would pull away from the chest wall). 

Assuming the airway is open, air from the external environment then follows its pressure gradient down and expands the alveoli of the lungs, where gas exchange with the blood takes place. As long as pressure within the alveoli is lower than atmospheric pressure air will continue to move inwardly, but as soon as the pressure is stabilized air movement stops.

Expiration

During quiet breathing, expiration is normally a passive process and does not require muscles to work (rather it is the result of the muscles relaxing). When the lungs are stretched and expanded, stretch receptors within the alveoli send inhibitory nerve impulses to the medulla oblongata, causing it to stop sending signals to the rib cage and diaphragm to contract. 

The muscles of respiration and the lungs themselves are elastic, so when the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax there is an elastic recoil, which creates a positive pressure (pressure in the lungs becomes greater than atmospheric pressure), and air moves out of the lungs by flowing down its pressure gradient.

Although the respiratory system is primarily under involuntary control, and regulated by the medulla oblongata, we have some voluntary control over it also. This is due to the higher brain function of the cerebral cortex.

When under physical or emotional stress, more frequent and deep breathing is needed, and both inspiration and expiration will work as active processes. Additional muscles in the rib cage forcefully contract and push air quickly out of the lungs. 

In addition to deeper breathing, when coughing or sneezing we exhale forcibly. Our abdominal muscles will contract suddenly (when there is an urge to cough or sneeze), raising the abdominal pressure. The rapid increase in pressure pushes the relaxed diaphragm up against the pleural cavity. This causes air to be forced out of the lungs.

Another function of the respiratory system is to sing and to speak. By exerting conscious control over our breathing and regulating flow of air across the vocal cords we are able to create and modify sounds
The Pathway of Air, Inspiration and Expiration The Pathway of Air, Inspiration and Expiration Reviewed by gafacom on June 03, 2019 Rating: 5

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