Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Inhaled Vomit Into the Lungs Anatomy

To better understand aspiration pneumonia, 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
  • Pulmonary vessels

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Inhaled Vomit Into the Lungs References
  1. Bynum LJ, Pierce AK: Pulmonary aspiration of gastric contents. Am Rev Respir Dis 1976 Dec; 114(6): 1129-36. [1008348]
  2. Huxley EJ, et al: Pharyngeal aspiration in normal adults and patients with depressed consciousness. Am J Med 1978 Apr; 64(4): 564-8. [645722]
  3. Matthay MA, Rosen GD: Acid aspiration induced lung injury. New insights and therapeutic options. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1996 Aug; 154: 277-8. [8756794]
  4. Shigemitsu H, Afshar K. Aspiration pneumonias: under-diagnosed and under-treated. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2007 May;13(3):192-8. [17414126]
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