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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

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Human Anatomy

Illustration of trachea

Picture of the Trachea

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The trachea, commonly known as the windpipe, is a tube about 4 inches long and less than an inch in diameter in most people. The trachea begins just under the larynx (voice box) and runs down behind the breastbone (sternum). The trachea then divides into two smaller tubes called bronchi: one bronchus for each lung.

The trachea is composed of about 20 rings of tough cartilage. The back part of each ring is made of muscle and connective tissue. Moist, smooth tissue called mucosa lines the inside of the trachea. The trachea widens and lengthens slightly with each breath in, returning to its resting size with each breath out.

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