Thoracic cavity

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Thoracic cavity
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Body cavities
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The thorax from the right.
Latin cavitas thoracis
Gray's subject #136 524
Dorlands/Elsevier c_16/12220616

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Overview

The thoracic cavity (or chest cavity) is the chamber of the human body (and other animal bodies) that is protected by the thoracic wall (thoracic cage and associated skin, muscle, and fascia).

Components

Structures within the thoracic cavity include:

It contains three potential spaces lined with mesothelium: the paired pleural cavities and the pericardial cavity. The mediastinum comprises those organs which lie in the centre of the chest between the lungs.

Thoracic cavity seen from left. Lungs, among others removed.

Boundaries

The thoracic cavity is separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm. The thoracic inlet is the upper limit of the thoracic cavity, formed by the manubrium in front, the first ribs laterally, and the spine posteriorly.

Clinical significance

If the pleural cavity is breached from the outside, as by a bullet wound or knife wound, a pneumothorax, or air in the cavity, may result. If the volume of air is significant, one or both lungs may collapse, which requires immediate medical attention.

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