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The trachea is a flexible tube with walls stiffened with rings. It keeps air flowing to the lungs and allows you to breathe properly. Find out where this organ is located and learn about its exact structure.

The tracheabegins at the level of VI-VII cervical vertebrae. It connects to the larynx, lying above, while on the sides it is surrounded by lobes of the thyroid gland. It is located in the upper mediastinum. It ends with a split at the level of the 5th thoracic vertebra, i.e. at the height of the scapula crest with the limbs lowered. Up to this point, you can hear a breathing noise coming from the windpipe.

From the rear, the trachea is adjacent to the esophagus. During eating, as larger chunks of food pass through the esophagus, the membranous wall of the trachea may dent inside the trachea. When a hard foreign object, such as a bone, gets stuck in the esophagus, it can severely narrow the windpipe and cause breathlessness.

Trachea - structure

The length of the trachea is approximately 10-12 centimeters, its diameter during life is 11-12 millimeters. It consists of a dozen or sotracheal cartilages , horseshoe-shaped, made of hyaline cartilage. The cartilages are connected by means of annular ligaments. The free edges of the cartilages are connected by a membranous wall made of smooth muscle fibers.

The trachea consists of two layers of muscle. The outer layer contains longitudinal fibers, the inner layer is thicker and forms the so-calledtracheal muscle .

The trachea is covered by the adventitia, while the inner surface is covered with a multi-row snapper epithelium, the shutters of which, i.e. tiny protrusions, move towards the throat, carrying dirt particles. The movement of the snapshots is stimulated by stretching the mucosa. This membrane contains specific cells - goblet cells and serous-mucous glands. Thanks to their secretions and snapshots, the trachea iscleaned of dust and small foreign bodies .

How to examine the trachea?

Doctors use a bronchoscope to examine the inside of the trachea. The apparatus consists of a tube and an optical device. The patient is locally anesthetized, tilts his head back, and the doctor inserts the endoscope through the mouth and into the respiratory tract. (through the larynx, then into the trachea, possibly into the bronchi).

This examination allows you to see the interiorthese organs, but also to perform a procedure, e.g.removal of a foreign bodythanks to specific tools. During bronchoscopy, you can also download material forbacteriological examinationto find out which bacteria is causing the disease.

The exact indications depend on the clinical situation and can only be assessed by a doctor. Bronchoscopy is also performed as part of the diagnosis of changes found in lung imaging (X-rays and or CT), such as tumors, infiltrative changes or interstitial changes in the lungs. The correct result of these tests does not exclude the necessity to perform bronchoscopy in many situations.

What is the function of the trachea?

The trachea plays an important role in the process:

  • swallowing - the trachea is reduced when food is swallowed so that it can freely pass through the esophagus into the stomach
  • cough - when the glottis opens, the pressure in the mediastinum is higher than in the trachea, which leads to a narrowing and shortening of the trachea and bronchi. This process makes it possible to remove foreign bodies, food particles when choking
  • breathing - the trachea expands due to the work of the muscles so that more air can get into the lungs

Diseases of the trachea

  • Tracheitis

Due to the location of the trachea, inflammation rarely occurs alone, most often it accompanies the inflammation of the larynx. There may also be involvement of the lower bronchi. Tracheitis is most often caused by viruses, incl. influenza virus, parainfluenza, adenoviruses, less often atypical bacteria. If bacteria are the cause, an antibiotic should be given. Treatment of viruses is symptomatic.

  • Laryngotracheal stenosis, LTS

Laryngotracheal stenosis, LTS, is a group of diseases associated withpathological disorder of the trachea and larynx . Strictures can take various locations, shapes and lengths. Depending on the location, they cause dyspnea and voice disorders to varying degrees. They most often occur as a result of complications after intubation, tracheotomy, trauma, laryngopharyngeal reflux or infection. The diagnosis is made on the basis of a history, spirometry, laryngoscopy and imaging tests. Surgical treatment is the most common.

  • Tracheal obstruction

Tracheal obstruction caused by foreign body ingestion usually requires surgical treatment in the form of bronchoscopy and removal of the foreign body. Tracheal obstruction resulting from the formation of a tumor pressing on the trachea is treated surgically. Due to the narrowing of the lightin the trachea, you may have difficulty breathing. One of the more common diseases of the trachea is alsotracheal cancer , which is manifested by persistent coughing and difficulty breathing.

Tracheal defects in children

Tracheoesophageal fistulais often associated with esophageal atresia, so surgical intervention should be performed. Symptoms appear later in the absence of esophageal atresia. These are mainly dysphagia, recurrent pneumonia and bronchitis. The treatment is operative.

Tracheal stenosisoccurs as a consequence of cartilage underdevelopment. Symptoms in infancy are usually inhalation-exhalation wheezing, recurrent respiratory infections.

Tracheal laxityis associated with congenital tracheomalacia, delayed cartilage development. Symptoms of inspiratory-expiratory stridor and recurrent respiratory tract infections resolve with age, up to the age of 3.

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