Respiratory System

Learning Objectives

When completing this chapter, the learner will be able to do the following:

  • Identify the anatomy of the respiratory system
  • Describe the main functions of the respiratory system
  • Spell the respiratory system medical terms and use correct abbreviations
  • Identify the medical specialties associated with the respiratory system
  • Explore common diseases, disorders, and procedures related to the respiratory system


Can you hold your breath as you continue reading…? How long can you do it? Chances are you are feeling uncomfortable already. A typical human cannot survive without breathing for more than three minutes, and even if you wanted to hold your breath longer, your autonomic nervous system would take control. Although oxygen is critical for cells, it is the accumulation of carbon dioxide that primarily drives your need to breathe.

The major structures of the respiratory system function primarily to provide oxygen to body tissues for cellular respiration, remove the waste product carbon dioxide, and help to maintain acid-base balance. Portions of the respiratory system are also used for nonvital functions, such as sensing odors, speech production, and straining, such as coughing.

Watch these videos:

Media 11.1. Respiratory System, Part 1: Crash Course A&P #31 [Online video]. Copyright 2015 by CrashCourse.

Media 11.2. Respiratory System, Part 2: Crash Course A&P #32 [Online video]. Copyright 2015 by CrashCourse.

Media 11.3. Spirometry [Online video]. Copyright 2009 by freshwaterl.


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Medical Terminology: An Interactive Approach Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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