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Functional Anatomy of the Upper Airway (Nursing)

by Rhonda Lawes

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    00:00 Hi. Welcome to our respiratory video series. In this one, we're going to look at air moving from your nose to your alveoli. So this will be very helpful in patient care at understanding exactly what's going in with the anatomy. We'll have a little bit of fun too. Let's start with some trivia.

    00:19 Now humans, you know like us, when they're not exerting themselves, breathe approximately 15 times per minute. Now if we take that number, 15 times a minute on the average, this is 900 breaths an hour or 21,600 breaths per day. That's a lot of air movement. So, how many square feet of alveoli surface do you think the average adult have? Remember, you got 2 lungs. So what's your guess of how many square feet of alveoli surface area does the average adult have? Yeah, well there's 300 million alveoli per lung so there's 600 million total in both lungs. That gives a person 75m² or 807 and a little bit of change square feet of alveoli surface area. Now you think all of that is tucked right into your lungs, that's pretty impressive.

    01:23 So here's what I want you to do. I want you to pause the video and right now don't worry what you can or can't do, just try to engage your mind in this. I want you to try and trace air from the nose all the way through the alveoli and list as many of the structures as you can that that air would pass through to get from the nose to the alveoli. Okay now, don't worry about how much you could or couldn't do. By the time we're done with this, you're going to be amazed at how much more you'll be able to list at the end of the video. So let's get started.

    02:04 In the upper airway, air enters the body through the nose or mouth. Okay, so those are the parts of the upper airway. Now they warm it up to your body temperature and they humidify it.

    02:16 So that's the job of the upper airway, to warm and humidify the air. So, have you ever wondered how does the upper respiratory tract humidify the air that you breathe in? Well, the respiratory tract has this mucus. Right? So it's coated with this mucus. Now part of the mucus' job is to seal the tissues from direct contact with air so they don't dry out. So when you have too much mucus, that might be kind of annoying but the right amount of mucus has a really important job. It's meant to coat that respiratory tract and keep those tissues from drying out. Now mucus is really high in water, at least we want it to be or it would be impossible to cough up. So as air crosses over these surfaces that are coated with mucus, it picks up that water. So, these processes help kind of get the air ready to be in the environment down deep in our lungs, kind of equilibrates the air as what we say that with the body condition so it takes it where it's drier, makes it moister and it warms it up. Hopefully that will minimize any effect of extreme temperatures. So if it's really cold air, you know sometimes you'll start a cough even though you don't mean to do that. That's your body's way of saying "Whoah that's a little more extreme than I can tolerate." That's why it's important when you breathe in up here that it can warm it and humidify it. Okay so if your patient has a trache, now remember the opening is right here in the throat. Right? So you are going to bypass. When they breathe in, air enters right here. It ends up skipping all of the nose and mouth so especially initially want to do something that humidify that air to help the trache patient as her body becomes accustomed to having a trache. So, what's the role of the mucus and cilia in the nasal passages? Well, that's not usually socially acceptable when that becomes too much. Let's talk about their important job. What do they do? Well the mucus and the cilia in the nasal passages, they help grab that matter that's floating in the air. Anything that makes it past your nose hair is removed in the nasal passages because of that mucus and that cilia. So they kind of capture it and they move it along to get rid of it out of the body. The processes of warming, humidifying, and get rid of particles that aren't supposed to be there are protective mechanisms. They help prevent damage to your trachea and your lungs. So, believe it or not, mucus and cilia are really positive protective measures that your body has. So let's go back to the air molecule. Now we've numbered this drawing you see in this graphic before, now we're going to number it for you because you can see how they correspond. First of all, you've got the nasal cavity. Alright, you've got that labelled #1. You probably already knew what that one was, but so hopefully you've got that on your list. Now, pharynx is the throat. So you see here we have #2 on the list and #2 on the drawing. That's your pharynx. Now, larynx is the voice box. We've labelled that #3. Remember that's got the vocal cords and those are the ones that vibrate and give me the opportunity to make sound or speech. Now #4 in here is the trachea. So that's what's going to be, remember that about 4-5 inches long there is the trachea and we've given it a different color shading to make it easier for you to see.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Functional Anatomy of the Upper Airway (Nursing) by Rhonda Lawes is from the course Review: Anatomy and Physiology of the Respiratory System (Nursing).


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Particulate matter that is floating in the air to protect the trachea and lungs.
    2. Allow for easier passage of dust particles.
    3. The process of warming and humidifying air.
    4. The process of cooling and drying air.
    5. Create excess mucus and nasal congestion.
    1. The respiratory tract is coated with mucus.
    2. Mucus is high in water.
    3. As air crosses surfaces of the mucus membrane it picks up water.
    4. Inhaling cold, dry, air.
    5. Apply supplemental oxygen.
    1. Nasal cavity
    2. Pharynx (throat)
    3. Larynx (voice box)
    4. Trachea
    5. Bronchioles

    Author of lecture Functional Anatomy of the Upper Airway (Nursing)

     Rhonda Lawes

    Rhonda Lawes


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