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Anatomy Of The Lungs

Discover the intricate workings and surprising functions of the human lungs, unraveling their vital role in our respiratory system.

Anatomy of the Lungs


The lungs are vital organs responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. Understanding the anatomy of the lungs is crucial for medical students preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the anatomy of the lungs, including their structure, blood supply, innervation, and key clinical correlations.

Structure of the Lungs

The lungs are paired, cone-shaped organs located within the thoracic cavity. Each lung is divided into lobes: the right lung has three lobes (superior, middle, and inferior lobes), while the left lung has two lobes (superior and inferior lobes). The lungs are surrounded by a double-layered membrane called the pleura, which helps protect and support their function.

Lobes and Fissures

The superior lobe of the left lung is further divided by the oblique fissure into the superior and inferior lobes. The right lung is divided by both the oblique and horizontal fissures into the superior, middle, and inferior lobes.

Bronchopulmonary Segments

Each lung is divided into smaller functional units called bronchopulmonary segments. There are a total of 10 bronchopulmonary segments in the right lung and 8 in the left lung. These segments are anatomically and functionally independent, allowing for localized lung diseases and surgical resections.

Blood Supply

The lungs receive blood supply from both the pulmonary and bronchial circulations.

Pulmonary Circulation

The pulmonary circulation is responsible for oxygenating the blood and removing carbon dioxide. The pulmonary arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle of the heart to the lungs, where oxygenation occurs in the alveoli. Oxygenated blood returns to the heart through the pulmonary veins.

Bronchial Circulation

The bronchial circulation supplies oxygenated blood to the lung tissue itself. The bronchial arteries arise from the systemic circulation, usually from the descending aorta, and provide oxygen and nutrients to the bronchi and bronchioles. The deoxygenated blood is drained by bronchial veins, which can drain into the pulmonary veins or the azygos vein.


The lungs are innervated by both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

Parasympathetic Innervation

Parasympathetic innervation of the lungs is primarily mediated by the vagus nerve (cranial nerve X). Parasympathetic stimulation causes bronchoconstriction, increased glandular secretion, and vasodilation.

Sympathetic Innervation

Sympathetic innervation of the lungs originates from the sympathetic chain ganglia. Sympathetic stimulation causes bronchodilation, decreased glandular secretion, and vasoconstriction.

Clinical Correlations

Understanding the anatomy of the lungs is crucial for diagnosing and treating various respiratory conditions. Here are a few clinical correlations related to lung anatomy:


Pneumothorax refers to the presence of air in the pleural cavity, causing lung collapse. It can occur due to trauma, underlying lung disease, or spontaneous rupture of lung tissue. Knowledge of the pleural anatomy is essential for diagnosing and managing pneumothorax.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Understanding the anatomical divisions of the lungs aids in the classification and staging of lung cancer, which guides treatment decisions.

Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot (usually from deep veins of the lower extremities) travels to the pulmonary arteries, obstructing blood flow. Knowledge of the pulmonary circulation helps in understanding the pathophysiology and clinical features of pulmonary embolism.


A solid understanding of the anatomy of the lungs is essential for medical students preparing for the USMLE. This guide has provided an overview of the lungs' structure, blood supply, innervation, and clinical correlations. Remember to review and integrate this knowledge with other respiratory system concepts to excel in your USMLE preparation.

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