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Lymphatics of the lungs: want to learn more about it?

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Lymphatics of the lungs

Learning objectives

Completing this study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the major lymph nodes and vessels that drain the lungs. 
  2. Describe the lymphatic drainage of the lungs.
  3. Understand the importance of this knowledge in the clinical setting.

Watch video

The lymphatics of the lung consist of several lymph nodes groups and a network of lymphatic vessels that drain lymph from the superficial and deep regions of both lungs into the tracheobronchial nodes which surround the bifurcation of the trachea and main bronchi. These in turn empty into the right and left bronchomediastinal trunks via paratracheal lymph nodes and ultimately into venous circulation.

The superficial (or subpleural) lymphatics of the lung drain lymph from the visceral pleura and peripheral lung tissue to the bronchopulmonary lymph nodes at the hilar region of each lung. The deep (or central) lymphatics of the lung drain the bronchi and peribronchial parenchyma of the lung via intrapulmonary lymph nodes after which lymph is also ultimately received by the bronchopulmonary lymph nodes. From here, lymph from both the superficial and deep lymphatics of the lungs is passed to the tracheobronchial nodes.

A good understanding of the lymphatic drainage of the lungs is important clinically, particularly in the staging and treatment of lung cancer.

This video will help you learn about the lymphatic drainage of the lungs in detail.

Take a quiz

Consolidate your knowledge by testing yourself with our quiz about the lymph nodes and vessels of the lungs:

Are you ready to challenge yourself further? Try out this customizable quiz about the lungs, trachea and bronchi. You can customize this yourself to your preference.

Browse atlas

Browse our atlas gallery to further review the lymphatic drainage of the lungs.

Summary

Key points about the lymphatic drainage of the lungs
Superficial (subpleural) pathway Drains visceral pleura and superficial lung parenchyma (tissue) → drains initially into the bronchopulmonary nodes
Deep (central) pathway Drains bronchi and peribronchial parenchyma → drains initially into the intrapulmonary nodes
Right lung Intrapulmonary nodes → bronchopulmonary nodes → right inferior tracheobronchial nodes → right superior tracheobronchial nodes → right paratracheal nodes → right bronchomediastinal lymph trunk → right venous angle → venous circulation
Left lung Upper lobe: Intrapulmonary nodes → bronchopulmonary nodes → left inferior tracheobronchial nodes → left superior tracheobronchial nodes → left paratracheal nodes → left bronchomediastinal lymph trunk → left venous angle (or thoracic duct) venous circulation
Lower lobe
: Intrapulmonary nodes → bronchopulmonary nodes → left inferior tracheobronchial nodes → right superior tracheobronchial nodes → right paratracheal nodes → right bronchomediastinal lymph trunk → right venous angle → venous circulation

Well done!

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