What is the anatomical structure of the airways of the lungs?

Updated: Nov 20, 2020
  • Author: Michael J Morris, MD, FACP, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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The airways of the lungs consist of the cartilaginous bronchi, membranous bronchi, and gas-exchanging bronchi termed the respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts. While the first 2 types function mostly as anatomic dead space, they also contribute to airway resistance. The smallest non-gas-exchanging airways, the terminal bronchioles, are approximately 0.5 mm in diameter; airways are considered small if they are less than 2 mm in diameter. [4]

Airway structure consists of the following:

  • Mucosa, which is composed of epithelial cells that are capable of specialized mucous production and a transport apparatus

  • Basement membrane

  • A smooth-muscle matrix extending to the alveolar entrances

  • Predominantly fibrocartilaginous or fibroelastic-supporting connective tissue.

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