The human body is composed of several hollow spaces or cavities. They include the cranial cavity in the head, the thoracic cavity, the abdominal cavity, dorsal cavity and others. The thoracic cavity also known as chest cavity is enclosed and protected by the thoracic wall. Here we will explain what the thoracic cavity is and what organs the thoracic cavity includes.
What is the Thoracic Cavity?
The thoracic cavity is the second largest chamber of the body. It is surrounded by the ribs, vertebral column and breastbone or the sternum and is positioned between the diaphragm and neck. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. A serous membrane lines the thoracic cavity and that part of the thorax is known as the parietal pleura. The visceral pleura is a membrane that covers the lungs while the mediastinal pleura is a membrane that covers the heart, esophagus and great vessels.
What are the Organs of the Thoracic Cavity?
The thoracic cavity serves as the protective shield for many vital organs. Given below are different organs and body systems found in the thoracic cavity.The Heart and the Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system is one of the most important parts of the body. This system includes structures such as the heart and the great vessels of the heart including the thoracic aorta, the pulmonary artery, the superior vena cava, the inferior vena cava, the pulmonary veins and the azygos vein. The Lungs and the Respiratory System
The thoracic cavity also protects the lungs and other structures of the respiratory system such as the airways, trachea and the bronchi.
The Esophagus and the Digestive System
Organs of the digestive system are mainly situated in the abdominal cavity. However, the thoracic cavity encloses the esophagus, the tube-shaped digestive organ that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.
Other Structures of the Thoracic Cavity
The chest cavity includes parts of the nervous system such as the paired vagus nerves and the paired sympathetic chains. The thymus or thyroid gland is an endocrine gland also found within the thoracic cavity. Finally, the thoracic duct is the part of the lymphatic system that is found in the chest cavity.
Additionally, the thoracic cavity encloses the three spaces lined with a membrane known as mesothelium. The three spaces are the pleural cavity, pericardial cavity and the mediastinum. The mediastinum is the middle part of the thoracic cavity that is positioned between the two lungs.