chest cavity

thoracic cavity

or chest cavity

Second largest hollow space of the body, enclosed by the ribs, vertebral column, and breastbone and separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm. It contains the lungs and bronchi, part of the esophagus and trachea, and the heart and major blood vessels. A membrane called the pleura lines the cavity (parietal pleura) and continues over the lung (visceral pleura) and the rest of the cavity's contents, defining a space called the mediastinum. Disorders include blood (hemothorax) or air (pneumothorax, which can lead to atelectasis) in the pleural cavity and inflammation of the pleura (pleurisy).

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The thoracic cavity (or chest cavity) is the chamber of the human body (and other animal bodies) that is protected by the thoracic wall (thoracic cage and associated skin, muscle, and fascia).


Structures within the thoracic cavity include:

It contains three potential spaces lined with mesothelium: the paired pleural cavities and the pericardial cavity. The mediastinum comprises those organs which lie in the centre of the chest between the lungs.


The thoracic cavity is separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm. The thoracic inlet is the upper limit of the thoracic cavity, formed by the manubrium in front, the first ribs laterally, and the spine posteriorly.

Clinical significance

If the pleural cavity is breached from the outside, as by a bullet wound or knife wound, a pneumothorax, or air in the cavity, may result. If the volume of air is significant, one or both lungs may collapse, which requires immediate medical attention.

External links

  • (also known as "thoracic wall")

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