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Overview of the lungs

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to: 

  1. Learn about the gross anatomy and function of the lungs.
  2. Master the anatomical features seen on the medial and lateral views of the lungs. 
  3. Identify the anatomical relations and impressions of the left and right lung.

Watch videos

The lungs are paired organs located in the thoracic cavity. They are considered to be central organs of the respiratory system since they are in charge of gaseous exchange between the inspired air and blood. Due to the differences in space in the two sides of the thoracic cavity, the lungs are asymmetrical (the left lung is smaller in size).
The lungs have three borders (anterior, posterior, and inferior) that marginate three surfaces. These surfaces include the costal, medial, and diaphragmatic surfaces. Because costal and medial surfaces of both lungs have many important features, and these features are common questions on anatomical exams, in this study unit we are going to cover these surfaces in detail. You can start by watching our videos that will provide you with a brief overview of medial and lateral views and their important features.

Continue your learning by checking out the video below on the medial view of the lungs. 

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the videos, you can test your knowledge about the surfaces of the lungs by taking the quiz below.

Do you want more questions or more topics in your quiz about the lungs and the respiratory system? No worries, you can design your quiz and choose your topics with the custom quiz below.

Browse atlas

Now you can see each structure in more detail with our image galleries. First, we are going to show you the structures of the right lung seen from both a lateral and medial perspective. Afterward, in our second gallery, you can see the features of the left lung from a lateral and medial view.


Key points about the medial and lateral views of the lungs
Lateral view Right lung: Apex, costal impressions, oblique fissure, horizontal fissure, superior lobe, medial lobe, inferior lobe
Left lung
: Apex, cardiac notch, lingula, superior lobe, inferior lobe
Medial view Right lung: Horizontal and oblique fissures, smaller cardiac impression, grooves for trachea, esophagus, brachiocephalic vein, azygos vein, superior vena cava, inferior vena cava
Left lung
: Oblique fissure, cardiac impression, grooves for aorta, subclavian artery, 1st rib, trachea, esophagus
Hilum contents Principal bronchus, lobar bronchi (superior, intermediate, inferior), one pulmonary artery, two pulmonary veins, bronchial arteries and veins, pulmonary nervous plexus, lymphatics, bronchopulmonary lymph nodes, areolar tissue

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