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Anatomy Of The Thorax

Discover the intricate structure and vital organs housed within the thorax, unraveling the mysteries of this crucial region of the human body.

Anatomy of the Thorax


The thorax is the region between the neck and the abdomen, and it contains vital structures such as the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels. Understanding the anatomy of the thorax is essential for medical professionals, particularly for those preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the anatomy of the thorax, highlighting key structures and their functions.

Thoracic Wall

The thoracic wall is composed of various layers:

  1. Skin: The outermost layer of the thorax.
  2. Superficial Fascia: A layer of connective tissue that contains fat and blood vessels.
  3. Muscles: The thoracic wall is supported by several muscles, including the external intercostal muscles responsible for inhalation, and the internal intercostal muscles for exhalation.
  4. Ribs: There are 12 pairs of ribs, which attach posteriorly to the thoracic vertebrae and anteriorly to the sternum.
  5. Costal Cartilages: The ribs are connected to the sternum via costal cartilages.

Thoracic Cavity

The thoracic cavity is divided into three compartments:

  1. Pleural Cavities: These cavities contain the lungs and are lined by the pleura, a thin membrane.
  2. Mediastinum: Located between the two pleural cavities, the mediastinum contains the heart, great vessels, esophagus, and other structures.
  3. Pericardial Cavity: Within the mediastinum, the pericardial cavity houses the heart and is lined by the pericardium.

Thoracic Organs

Several important organs are located within the thoracic cavity:

  1. Heart: The heart is a muscular organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. It consists of four chambers: two atria and two ventricles.
  2. Lungs: The lungs are paired organs responsible for respiration. The right lung has three lobes, while the left lung has two lobes.
  3. Trachea: The trachea, or windpipe, connects the larynx to the bronchi and allows air to pass into the lungs.
  4. Bronchi: The bronchi are the tubes that branch out from the trachea and carry air into the lungs.
  5. Esophagus: The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

Blood Supply and Innervation

The thorax receives blood supply from various arteries, including the thoracic aorta, internal thoracic artery, and intercostal arteries. The veins responsible for draining the thoracic region include the superior and inferior vena cava, azygos vein, and hemiazygos vein. Innervation of the thorax is provided by the intercostal nerves.


Understanding the anatomy of the thorax is crucial for medical professionals. This guide has provided an overview of the thoracic wall, thoracic cavity, and important organs within the thorax. Additionally, it highlighted the blood supply, innervation, and key structures within this region. By familiarizing themselves with this information, medical professionals can enhance their knowledge and perform better on the USMLE.

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