THE RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

Every cell in the body must obtain energy to maintain its life, growth, and function. Cells obtain their energy from oxidation, which is a slow, controlled burning of food materials. Oxidation requires fuel and oxygen. Respiration is the process of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide during oxidation and releasing energy and water.

Gas Exchange.

Few body cells are close enough to the surface to have any chance of obtaining oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide by direct air diffusion. Instead, the gas exchange takes place via the circulating blood. The blood is exposed to air over a large diffusing surface as it passes through the lungs. When the blood reaches the tissues, the small capillary vessels provide another large surface where the blood and tissue fluids are in close contact. Gases diffuse readily at both ends of the circuit and the blood has the remarkable ability to carry both oxygen and carbon dioxide. This system normally works so well that even the deepest cells of the body can obtain oxygen and get rid of excess carbon dioxide almost as readily as if they were completely surrounded by air.
If the membrane surface in the lung, where blood and air come close together, were just an exposed sheet of tissue like the skin, natural air currents would keep fresh air in contact with it. Actually, this lung membrane surface is many times larger than the skin area and is folded and compressed into the small space of the lungs that are protected inside the bony cage of the chest. This makes it necessary to continually move air in and out of the space. The processes of breathing and the exchange of gases in the lungs are referred to as ventilation and pulmonary gas exchange, respectively.

 

Respiration Phases.

The complete process of respiration includes six important
phases:
1. Ventilation of the lungs with fresh air
2. Exchange of gases between blood and air in lungs
3. Transport of gases by blood
4. Exchange of gases between blood and tissue fluids
5. Exchange of gases between the tissue fluids and cells
6. Use and production of gases by cells
If any one of the processes stops or is seriously hindered, the affected cells cannot
function normally or survive for any length of time. Brain tissue cells, for example, stop working almost immediately and will either die or be permanently injured in a few minutes if their oxygen supply is completely cut off. The respiratory system is a complex of organs and structures that performs the pulmonary ventilation of the body and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the ambient air and the blood circulating through the lungs. It also warms the air passing into the body and assists in speech production by providing air to
the larynx and the vocal cords. The respiratory tract is divided into upper and lower tracts.

Upper and Lower Respiratory Tract.

The upper respiratory tract consists of the nose, nasal cavity, frontal sinuses, maxillary sinuses, larynx, and trachea. The upper respiratory tract carries air to and from the lungs and filters, moistens and warms air during each inhalation. The lower respiratory tract consists of the left and right bronchi and the lungs, where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs during the respiratory cycle. The bronchi divide into smaller bronchioles in the lungs, the bronchioles divide into alveolar ducts, the ducts into alveolar sacs, and the sacs into alveoli. The
alveolar sacs and the alveoli present about 850 square feet of surface area for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide that occurs between the internal alveolar surface and the tiny capillaries surrounding the external alveolar wall.

 

Source: US Navy Diving Manual

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