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Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Explain the structure of the trachea.
  2. Identify the individual sections in histological images.

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The trachea (windpipe) connects the larynx with the two main bronchi (principal bronchi) and represents the beginning of the lower respiratory tract.

The tracheal wall consists of several layers. The inner mucosa is lined with respiratory ciliated epithelium and goblet cells. This ciliated epithelium consists of highly prismatic epithelial cells covered with kinocilia. These cilia move in a coordinated manner and transport foreign substances and mucus from the airways to fulfil an important protective function. In the lamina propria, there are also immune cells and seromucous cells that produce mucus and moisten the mucous membrane.

The middle fibromusculocartilagineous layer is composed of three components. Many elastic fibers enable the trachea to adjust its size depending on breathing. A total of 16 to 20 horseshoe-shaped hyaline cartilage rings support the trachea and keep it open. These cartilage rings are open towards the back, where the trachealis muscle connects the rings. The trachea is embedded in its surroundings via the loose connective tissue of the outer adventitia.

Watch the following video to learn more about the histological appearance of the trachea:

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