The Trachea is widely known as the windpipe. In most people, it is a tube about 4 inches long and less than an inch in diameter. It begins just under the larynx (voice box) and runs down behind the breastbone (sternum). The Trachea is further divided into two smaller tubes called bronchi: one bronchus for each lung.

What is Trachea? Where is it located and what is its structure like?

Trachea is a flexible pipe that runs in the frontal neck that takes the air we breathe into the lung cavities. Trachea is located in the centre of the front neck; it extends from the end of voice box (larynx) and continues up to the lung cavities behind the breastbone. A well-developed Trachea has a length of nearly 10 cms with a diameter quite lesser than a mere 3 cms. Before it enters both the lung cavities, it is divided into two branches.

What is Trachea made up of?

Trachea is made up of fibrous and elastic tissues and smooth muscles. It, thus has nearly twenty rings of cartilages, which are flexible connective tissues, making Trachea flexible and open with any movement of the neck. The inside of the Trachea is lined with a mucosa-membrane that has sticky-mucus-secreting cells bearing hair-like structures known as cilia on it.

What are the functions of Trachea?

The main function of Trachea is to let the air we breathe in through nose and mouth flow into the lungs. It acts as a canal and thus it is even known as windpipe. In addition to this, the mucus that the cells on its wall secrete moistens the air and helps in trapping the foreign particles like dust or bacteria which escape the nasal cavity. With the help of cilia, the collected particles are moved upwards and discarded as phlegm or it is passed through to the stomach where the acids destroy it.

What are the Tracheal disorders?

The major Tracheal disorders are:

Tracheal stenosis: It is the condition of the Trachea when its inner walls swell and is narrowed down the windpipe.

Tracheoesophageal fistula: Here, there takes place an abnormal connection between the oesophagus and the Trachea through a channel of swallowed food from oesophagus to enter the

Trachea. Tracheomalacia: This disorder is a condition in which the Trachea is softer than usual either because of birth defect or due to excessive smoking.

Tracheal obstruction: In this Tracheal disorder, the inner space is narrowed down due to the growth of tumour on the inner walls.

What are the commonly known Trachea tests?
  • Flexible bronchoscopy: In this test, an endoscope – a flexible tube with a lighted camera on its end – is made to pass through the nose or mouth into the trachea. It is with the help of bronchoscopy, that a doctor can examine the trachea and its branches.

  • Rigid bronchoscopy: In this case too, a rigid metal tube is moved into the Trachea through the mouth. This test is often more effective than flexible bronchoscopy, however it requires deep anesthesia.

  • Computed tomography (CT scan): It is a CT scanner through which a series of X-rays are taken and later a computer creates detailed images of the trachea along with the nearby structures.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan): An MRI scanner uses radio waves in a magnetic field to create images of the trachea and nearby structures.

  • Chest X-ray: A plain X-ray can tell if the trachea is deviated to either side of the chest. An X-ray might also identify masses or foreign bodies.

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