MadSci Network: Anatomy

Re: The human lungs.

Area: Anatomy
Posted By: Leslie Gartner, Faculty Histology/Anatomy, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
Date: Wed May 22 13:29:26 1996

Dear Stephen:
You asked several questions about the lungs.

1. Can humans live with one lung?
Yes they can. There are people with lung cancer who have to have one of their lungs removed and they survivie very well with only one lung.

2. Do our lungs get bigger as we grow?
Yes they do. All you have to do is look at a baby's chest and compare it to the chest of an adult and you'll see that the adult's chest is much bigger. Most of the chest volume (thoracic cage) is occupied by the lungs.

3. As adults is there a variation in the size of the lungs?
Yes there is. Again think of a short man and compare his chest volume to that of a fullback football player. The football player will have larger lungs than the short man.

4. What are the size variations as we inhale and exhale?
You are really asking is two questions: 1. what is the maximum lung capacity (that is after a very deep inspiration, what is the maximum amount of air that can be exhaled) and that is about 3,700 cc (this is known as vital capacity) and 2. What is the volume of exhaled air during normal breathing, and that is only about 500 cc (this is known as the tidal volume).

I hope this helps.

Leslie Gartner, Ph.D.
Department of Anatomy
Dental School
University of Maryland
Baltimore, MD

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