Introduction to the Structure and Function of the Lung

  • Jeff Thiboutot
  • Bruce R. Thompson
  • Robert H. BrownEmail author
Part of the Respiratory Medicine book series (RM)


Lung function is inextricably linked to pulmonary anatomy and structure. Human lungs have distinctively adapted to permit life in the earth’s unique atmosphere. While gas exchange happens at the alveoli, gas must first traverse the entire bronchial tree before crossing the pulmonary capillary bed to mix with the pulmonary circulation, and to transport gases via the cardiovascular system. Therefore, the lungs are co-dependent with the heart supplying adequate pulmonary blood flow to properly function. Before being able to interpret lung function, one must have an understanding of the critical aspects of pulmonary structure and function.

The functionality of the pulmonary system is based upon the structural components of which it is built. Each anatomical component of the pulmonary system supports its primary function, gas exchange. The human lungs are responsible for extraction of oxygen, elimination of waste products of metabolism, maintenance of pH balance, and host defense against the outside environment.


Lung structure Lung function Anatomy Gas exchange Respiratory muscles 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeff Thiboutot
    • 1
  • Bruce R. Thompson
    • 2
  • Robert H. Brown
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care MedicineJohns Hopkins Medical InstitutionsBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Head Physiology Service, Department of Respiratory MedicineCentral Clinical School, The Alfred Hospital and Monash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Departments of Anesthesiology, Medicine, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Environmental Health and Engineering and RadiologyJohns Hopkins Medical InstitutionsBaltimoreUSA

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