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Encyclopedia > Pleura

In anatomy, the pleural cavity is the potential space between the lungs and the chest wall. It has virtually nothing in it in the normal non-diseased state, except a small amount of pleural fluid. The cavity is lined by specialized epithelium called pleura. The pleura that is connected to the chest wall is called the parietal pleura and is highly sensitive to pain. The pleura that is connected to the lung and other visceral tissues is called the visceral pleura, is not sensitive to pain and has a dual blood supply, from the bronchial and pulmonary arteries. In humans, there is no anatomical connection between the left and right pleural cavities.

During quiet breathing, the cavity normally experiences a negative pressure (compared to the atmosphere) which helps adhere the lungs to the chest wall, so that movements of the chest wall during breathing are coupled closely to move the lungs.

The pleura and pleural fluid function to reduce friction between the lungs and the inside of the chest wall during breathing. This function of the pleural cavity can be disrupted in several ways: -

  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung): air enters the pleural cavity, either from the outside or from the lungs. This can be the result of a penetrating chest wound, or of an internal injury. A tension pneumothorax is where the punctured chest wall forms a one way valve; such that air may enter (through the puncture) on inspiration, but cannot exit on expiration. With each breath air builds up in the chest cavity, compressing the lung still further, thus reducing the surface area available for gas exchange. It is a medical emergency.
  • Pleural effusion: fluid accumulates in the pleural space, compressing the lungs. This can result for example from lung cancer, infection or heart failure.
  • Mesothelioma: this is a type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

An older term, pleurisy, is sometimes encountered: it indicated an inflammation of the pleura, especially one causing painful respiration, and could be provoked by a variety of infectious and non-infectious causes.

  Results from FactBites:
XI. Splanchnology. 1c. The Pleuræ. Gray, Henry. 1918. Anatomy of the Human Body. (951 words)
From the vertebral column the pleura passes to the side of the pericardium, which it covers to a slight extent; it then covers the back part of the root of the lung, from the lower border of which a triangular sheet descends vertically toward the diaphragm.
The reflection of the left pleura follows at first the ascending part of the sixth costal cartilage, and in the rest of its course is slightly lower than that of the right side.
—The arteries of the pleura are derived from the intercostal, internal mammary, musculophrenic, thymic, pericardiac, and bronchial vessels.
pleura - HighBeam Encyclopedia (446 words)
PLEURA [pleura], membranous lining of the upper body cavity and covering for the lungs.
The pleura is a two-layered structure: the parietal pleura lines the walls of the chest cage and covers the upper surface of the diaphragm, and the pulmonary pleura, or visceral layer, tightly covers the surface of the lungs.
The role of closed pleural needle biopsy in the diagnosis of malignant mesothelioma of the pleura.
  More results at FactBites »



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