Anatomy

The chest, more correctly referred to as the thorax, is an irregularly shaped cylinder with a narrow opening superiorly and a larger opening inferiorly. The superior thoracic opening is in continuity with the neck and the inferior thoracic opening is separated from the abdomen by the diaphragm. The musculoskeletal wall of the thorax is flexible and consists of segmen-tally arranged vertebrae, ribs, muscles and the sternum. The thoracic cavity enclosed by the thoracic wall is subdivided into three major components: the left and right pleural cavities, each surrounding a lung; the mediastinum, a median, longitudinal soft tissue partition containing the heart, the oesophagus, the trachea, the major systemic blood vessels and a variety of major nerves [2].

The thorax has three main functions. • Breathing: contraction of the diaphragm and changes in the lateral and anterior dimensions of the thoracic wall caused by movement of the ribs alter the volume of the thoracic cavity - these are key elements in breathing.

• Protection of vital organs.

• The mediastinum acts as a conduit for structures connecting thoracic organs to other body regions, and for structures passing completely through the thorax from one body region to another.

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