The thoracic cavity (or chest cavity) is the chamber of the human body (and other animal bodies) that is protected by the thoracic wall (rib cage and associated skin, muscle, and fascia).
The thoracic cavity includes the tendons as well as the cardiovascular system which could be damaged from injury to the back, spine or the neck.
Structures within the thoracic cavity include:
- structures of the cardiovascular system, including the heart and great vessels, which include the thoracic aorta, the pulmonary artery and all its branches, the superior and inferior vena cava, the pulmonary veins, and the azygos vein
- structures of the respiratory system, including the Diaphragm, trachea, bronchi and lungs
- structures of the digestive system, including the esophagus,
- endocrine glands, including the thymus gland,
- structures of the nervous system including the paired vagus nerves, and the paired sympathetic chains,
- lymphatics including the thoracic duct.
It contains three potential spaces lined with mesothelium: the paired pleural cavities and the pericardial cavity. The mediastinum comprises those organs which lie in the centre of the chest between the lungs.
If the pleural cavity is breached from the outside, as by a bullet wound or knife wound, a pneumothorax, or air in the cavity, may result. If the volume of air is significant, one or both lungs may collapse, which requires immediate medical attention.
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Illustration of Heart in Thoracic Cavity
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Illustration of Heart Position Relative to the Rib Cage
- This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see anatomical terminology.
- ^ Eskandarlou, M.; Moaddab, A. H. (2010). "Chest wall necrosis and empyema resulting from attempting suicide by injection of petroleum into the pleural cavity". Emergency Medicine Journal 27 (8): 616–8. PMID 20558490. doi:10.1136/emj.2009.073486.
- thoraxlesson3 at The Anatomy Lesson by Wesley Norman (Georgetown University)