Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Anatomy

To better understand COPD, it helps to understand the anatomy of the lungs.

Inside the chest, the windpipe, or trachea, divides into two smaller tubes: the right bronchus and the left bronchus. The right bronchus enters the right lung and the left bronchus enters the left lung. The right bronchus and left bronchus branch into smaller and smaller tubes.

The smallest tubes, called bronchioles, end in tiny air sacs, called alveoli. Blood flows very close to the walls of the alveoli. Oxygen and carbon dioxide pass between the air and the bloodstream through the wall of the alveoli.

Anatomy examples:

  • The lung and airways
  • The bronchioles and alveoli
  • The lungs

Last Updated: Jun 1, 2009 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease References
  1. Celli BR, Thomas NE, Anderson JA, Ferguson GT, Jenkins CR, Jones PW, Vestbo J, Knobil K, Yates JC, Calverley PM. Effect of pharmacotherapy on rate of decline of lung function in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: results from the TORCH study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Aug 15;178(4):332-8. Epub 2008 May 29. [18511702]
  2. Doherty DE, Briggs DD Jr. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: epidemiology, pathogenesis, disease course, and prognosis. Clin Cornerstone. 2004;Suppl 2:S5-16. [15500179]
  3. Ebell MH. Systemic corticosteroids for acute exacerbations of COPD. Am Fam Physician. 2005 Aug 1;72(3):437-8. [16100857]
  4. Kerstjens H, Postma D, Ten Hacken N. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Clin Evid. 2004 Jun;(11):2003-30. [15652094]
  5. Weder MM, Donohue JF. Role of bronchodilators in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Apr;26(2):221-34. [16088439]
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