Anatomy

Some knowledge of tracheal anatomy is relevant to appreciating the physiological characteristics of the trachea.

The trachea is a tube of approximately 11 cm in length and 1.6 to 2.4 cm in width. It is composed of C-shaped cartilage rings, spanned by the trachealis muscle, which provides support anteriorly and laterally, and a posterior membrane that stretches and can become partially redundant when exposed to high extrapleural pressures. The distal two-thirds of the trachea is intrathoracic, whereas the proximal third is extrathoracic when the neck is extended and intrathoracic with the neck flexed. Thus, there is a zone of the trachea that can be exposed to either intrapleural or extrapleural pressure.

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