Bronchial Tubes: Definition, Function & Location

Instructor: Michael Quist

Michael has taught college-level mathematics and sociology; high school math, history, science, and speech/drama; and has a doctorate in education.

They're the highways that bring air to your lungs. In this lesson, we'll discuss your bronchial tubes, what they are, how they work, and where they are in your body.

What are the Bronchial Tubes?

Your body provides you with energy by combining oxygen from the air with the carbohydrates in the food that you eat. Of course, that only works if you actually have oxygen available! Your body uses a complex system, including your mouth and nose, trachea, larynx, bronchial tubes, bronchioles, and alveoli, to breathe in air, pull out the oxygen that's needed, and then breathe out the nitrogen and other stuff that your body doesn't use. In this lesson, we'll discuss the bronchial tubes, including what they are, what part they play in getting oxygen to your body, and where they're located in your body.


Bronchial tubes split off from trachea and take air to the lungs
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The bronchial tubes are delicate hoses that connect your throat to your lungs. When you breathe through your mouth or nose, the air goes down your throat and runs into a chamber, called your larynx, which serves to close off your air passageways when you swallow. It also allows you to cough and make vocal sounds. From the larynx, the air goes through a single cartilaginous passage, called the trachea, and then into your bronchial tubes, which complete the journey from your throat to your lungs.

How do the Bronchial Tubes Work?

Bronchial tubes are really just like small hoses. They branch out from the trachea to take air to the lungs. When they reach the lungs, they split out into smaller branches, called bronchioles, which then connect to small sacks, called alveoli, which cluster like grapes and perform the actual transfer of oxygen into the blood stream. The average person has a tennis court of alveoli surface within their lungs, all for the purpose of exchanging gases between the air passages and the blood stream.


End of the road: The bronchial tubes are designed to send air to the alveoli
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Each bronchus, or bronchial tube, is designed to resist collapse and provide a steady flow of air. Cartilage and smooth muscle provide structure, protection, and function for the air passages. The inner surface of each bronchus is lined with mucous glands and small cilia, hair-like structures designed to filter dust and other foreign particles from the air as it passes through the bronchi.


Major airways have cilia to catch dust and mucus-generating membranes to get rid of foreign material
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Where are the Bronchial Tubes Located?

Your bronchi split out from the trachea behind your sternum, or breastbone - that necktie-shaped hard piece of bone just under your throat that holds onto most of your ribs and helps protect your critical organs. They are called the right or left bronchus, depending on which lung they serve.


The left and right bronchi
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