Sign InSign Up
All Posts

Respiratory Physiology And Pathophysiology

Unlock the mysteries behind respiratory physiology and pathophysiology, and discover how these intriguing processes impact our everyday lives.

USMLE Guide: Respiratory Physiology and Pathophysiology


This USMLE guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of respiratory physiology and pathophysiology. This knowledge is crucial for medical students preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1.

Table of Contents

  1. Respiratory Physiology
    • Anatomy of the Respiratory System
    • Pulmonary Ventilation
    • Gas Exchange
    • Oxygen Transport
    • Carbon Dioxide Transport
    • Control of Respiration
  2. Respiratory Pathophysiology
    • Obstructive Lung Diseases
    • Restrictive Lung Diseases
    • Pulmonary Vascular Disorders
    • Respiratory Failure
    • Respiratory Infections
    • Lung Cancer

Respiratory Physiology

Anatomy of the Respiratory System

The respiratory system consists of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. The upper respiratory tract includes the nasal cavity, pharynx, and larynx. The lower respiratory tract comprises the trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.

Pulmonary Ventilation

Pulmonary ventilation refers to the process of breathing. It involves inspiration (inhalation) and expiration (exhalation). During inspiration, the diaphragm contracts, and the intercostal muscles expand the thoracic cavity, causing air to enter the lungs. During expiration, the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax, and air is expelled.

Gas Exchange

Gas exchange occurs between the alveoli and the pulmonary capillaries. Oxygen diffuses from the alveoli into the capillaries, while carbon dioxide diffuses from the capillaries into the alveoli. This process is facilitated by the thin alveolar-capillary membrane and the concentration gradient of gases.

Oxygen Transport

Oxygen is transported in the blood primarily bound to hemoglobin within red blood cells. It forms oxyhemoglobin, which is released to the tissues where oxygen is needed. Factors affecting oxygen transport include the partial pressure of oxygen, hemoglobin concentration, and affinity of hemoglobin for oxygen.

Carbon Dioxide Transport

Carbon dioxide is transported in three forms: dissolved in plasma, as bicarbonate ions, and bound to hemoglobin. Most of the carbon dioxide is converted into bicarbonate ions in the red blood cells, which is then transported to the lungs. Factors influencing carbon dioxide transport include partial pressure of carbon dioxide, bicarbonate concentration, and pH.

Control of Respiration

Respiration is regulated by the respiratory centers located in the medulla oblongata and pons of the brainstem. The medullary respiratory center controls the basic rhythm and depth of respiration, while the pontine respiratory center modifies the rate and depth of breathing. Chemoreceptors in the brain and peripheral tissues sense changes in oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH levels, providing feedback to the respiratory centers.

Respiratory Pathophysiology

Obstructive Lung Diseases

Obstructive lung diseases are characterized by airflow limitation and difficulty exhaling air. Common examples include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and bronchiectasis. These conditions are associated with airway inflammation, bronchoconstriction, and mucus production, leading to symptoms such as cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Restrictive Lung Diseases

Restrictive lung diseases involve a reduced lung expansion and decreased lung volumes. Conditions like pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and kyphoscoliosis fall under this category. They are characterized by lung tissue scarring, inflammation, and stiffness, resulting in difficulty in fully expanding the lungs. Symptoms include dyspnea, decreased exercise tolerance, and dry cough.

Pulmonary Vascular Disorders

Pulmonary vascular disorders affect the blood vessels within the lungs. Pulmonary embolism, pulmonary hypertension, and pulmonary edema are common examples. These conditions can impair blood flow, increase pulmonary artery pressure, and cause fluid accumulation in the lungs. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, and hemoptysis.

Respiratory Failure

Respiratory failure occurs when the respiratory system fails to adequately oxygenate the blood or remove carbon dioxide. It can be classified as either hypoxemic or hypercapnic respiratory failure. Causes include severe pneumonia, chronic lung diseases, and respiratory muscle weakness. Symptoms include severe dyspnea, confusion, and cyanosis.

Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can affect various parts of the respiratory system, including the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Common examples include the common cold, influenza, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. These infections are usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi and present with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and fatigue.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a malignant tumor that arises from the cells of the lungs. It is mainly

USMLE Test Prep
a StudyNova service


GuidesStep 1 Sample QuestionsStep 2 Sample QuestionsStep 3 Sample QuestionsPricing

Install App coming soon

© 2024 StudyNova, Inc. All rights reserved.