Respiratory System - Medical Terminology(Adaptive*)

Upper Respiratory Tract

External openings of the nose are referred to as nostrils or nares (singular, naris). Nas/o/gastr/icrefers to the nose and stomach. This term isused to describe procedures and devices associated with the nose and the stomach, such as nas/o/gastr/ic feeding and nas/o/gastr/ic suction. When you see the term nas/o/gastr/ic tube, you will know it refers to a device inserted into the nose, and into the stomach.

When the term tube is used in association with a medical procedure, it usually refers to a catheter. A catheter is a hollow, flexible tube inserted into a vessel or body cavity. Its purpose is to withdraw or instill fluids into a body cavity or vessel. A pharyng/eal suction catheter is a rigid tube used to suction the pharynx when the physician performs a visual examination or therapeutic procedure of the throat.

The prefix para- is a directional element that means near, beside; beyond. The para/nas/al sinuses are hollow spaces within the skull that open into the nasal cavities. They are lined with ciliated epithelium, which is continuous with the mucosa of the nasal cavities.

Both rhin/o and nas/o refer to the nose. As a general rule, nas/o is not used to build surgical terms. However, if you are in doubt about which element to use, consult a medical dictionary.

Form operative terms that mean

surgical repair of the nose: rhin/o/plasty

incision of the nose: rhin/o/tomy

Rhin/o/rrheais a discharge from the nose. Sneezing, tearing, and a runny nose are common symptoms of a cold.Where as rhin/ o/ rrhearefers to a runny nose, rhin/ o/ rrhagiarefers to nose bleed.

Profuse bleeding from the nose is charted with the Dxrhin/o/rrhagia,A runny discharge from the nose is charted with the Dxrhin/o/rrhea

Inflammation of the nose is called rhin/it is.

A physician who specializes in diseases of the nose is a rhin/o/logist.

Air enters the nose and passes through the (1) nasal cavity, where fine hairs catch many of the dust particles that we inhale. Label the nasal cavity in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Swallowing air is not unusual for infants. It can occur as they suck on a nipple to obtain milk, water, or any liquid substance. Doing so commonly causes gaseous discomfort, which is relieved when the infant is burped.

Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

The suffix -therapy is used in words to mean treatment. Aer/o/ therapy is treatment of diseases by use of air.

Hydr/o/therapy is treatment of diseases by use of water.

Combining air and water to treat a disease or injury is also a form of therapy. Aer/o/hydr/o/therapy is treatment by application of air and water.

After passing through the nasal cavity, air reaches the (2) pharynx (throat). Label the pharynx in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts..

Pharyng/o/myc/osis is a fungal disease of the pharynx or throat

The suffix -plegiameans paralysis.Pharyng/o/plegiaand pharyng/o/paralysis are used to describe muscle paralysis ofthe pharynx

Smoking, drinking alcohol, and chewing tobacco can cause cancer (CA) of the pharynx. Patients with pharyng/eal CA may require some type of plastic surgery. When you see CA in a medical chart, you will know it is an abbreviation for cancer.

inflammation of the pharynx (throat):pharyng/itis

surgical repair of the pharynx (throat):pharyng/o/plasty

incision of the pharynx (throat):pharyng/o/tomy

instrument to incise the pharynx (throat):pharyng/o/tome

involuntary contraction or twitching of the pharynx (throat):pharyng/o/spasm

Pharyng/o/stenosis is a narrowing, or stricture, of the pharynx. The (3) larynx (voice box) is responsible for sound production and makes speech possible. Label the larynx in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

When laryng/eal CA is detected in its early stages, a partial laryng/ ectomy may be recommended. For extensive CA of the larynx, the entire larynx is removed. In either case, when excision of the larynx is performed, the surgery is called a laryng/ectomy.

Spasms of the laryng/eal muscles cause a closure that impedes breathing. Laryng /o / stenosis is a stricture of the larynx.

inflammation of larynx: laryng/it is

instrument to view or examine the larynx: laryng/o/scope

visual examination of larynx: laryng/o/scopy

narrowing or stricture of larynx: laryng/o/stenosis

A small leaf-shaped cartilage called the (4) epiglottis is located in the super/ior portion of the larynx. During swallowing, it closes off the larynx so that foods and liquids are directed into the esophagus. If anything but air passes into the larynx, a cough reflex attempts to expel the material to avoid a serious blockage of breathing. Refer Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts./p>

Lower Respiratory Tract

The (5) trachea (windpipe) is a cylindrical tube composed of smooth muscle embedded with a series of 16 to 20 C-shaped rings of cartilage. The trachea extends downward into the thoracic cavity, where it divides to form the (6) right and left primary bronchi (singular, bronchus). Each bronchus enters a lung and continues to subdivide into increasingly finer, smaller branches known as (7) bronchioles.

The diminutive suffix –ole means small, minute. Thus, smaller segments of the bronchus are called bronchi/oles.

The continuous branching of bronchi and bronchi/oles from the trachea throughout the lungs resembles an inverted tree. The trachea resembles the trunk, and the branching of bronchi and bronchi/oles that become smaller and smaller resembles the branches. Thus, the term bronchi/al tree is commonly used to describe air passages in the lungs. Refer to Figure Anterior view of the upper and lower respiratory tracts to examine these structures. The singular form of bronchi is bronchus.

The trachea’s cartilaginous rings provide necessary rigidity to keep air passage open at all times.Chondr/itisis an inflammation of cartilage.

surgical repair of cartilage: chondr/o/plasty

disease of cartilage: chondr/o/pathy

tumor (or tumorlike growth) of cartilage:chondr/oma

On its way to the lungs, air passes from the larynx to the trachea, or windpipe. In a life-threatening situation, when trache/al obstruction causes cessation of breathing, a trache/o/stomy is performed through the neck into the trachea to gain access below the blockage. (See Figure Tracheostomy.)

When an emergency situation warrants creation of an opening into the trachea, the procedure performed is trache/o/stomy. The surgical procedure that means forming an opening (mouth) into the trachea is trache/o/stomy.


Tracheostomy. (A) Lateral view with tracheostomy tube in place(B) Frontal view.

Softening of trache/al cartilage may be caused by pressure of the left pulmonary artery on the place.(B) Frontal view.

disease of the trachea: trache/o/pathy

surgical repair of the trachea: trache/o/plasty

narrowing or stricture of the trachea:trache/o/stenosis

incision of the trachea:trache/o/tomy

Label the left lung in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts. as you continue to read the material in this frame. Then review the position of the trachea to see how it branches into a right and left primary bronchus. Each primary bronchus(plural, bronchi) leads to a separate lung, the right and the (8) left lung. Structures of the bronchi and alveoli are part of the lungs, which are the organs of respiration (act of breathing).

Patients with asthma experience wheezing caused by bronch/ial spasms. The medical term for this condition is bronchi/o/spasm or bronch/o/spasm. Chronic dilation of bronchi is called bronchi/ectasis. Chronic pneumon/ ia or flu may result in dilation of bronchi. The medical term for this condition is bronchi/ectasis.

inflammation of bronchi:bronch/it is

involuntary contraction or twitching of the bronchus:bronch/o/spasm

narrowing or stricture of bronchi:bronch/o/stenosis

Structurally, each primary bronchus is similar to that of the trachea, but as they subdivide into finer branches, the amount of cartilage in the walls decreases and finally disappears as it forms bronchi/oles. As cartilage diminishes, a layer of smooth muscle surrounding the tube becomes more prominent. Smooth muscles in the walls of bronchi/oles are designed to constrict or dilate the airways to maintain unobstructed air passages.

Bronchi/oles eventually distribute air to the (9) alveoli (singular, alveolus), small clusters of grapelike air sacs of the lungs. Each alveolus is surrounded by a network of microscopic (10) pulmonary capillaries. Label the alveoli and pulmonary capillaries in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts.

The thin walls of the alveoli permit an exchange of gases between the alveolus and the surrounding capillaries. Blood flowing through the capillaries accepts oxygen (O2) from the alveolus, while depositing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the alveolus. Erythr/o/cytes in the blood carry O2 to all parts of the body and CO2 to the lungs for exhalation.

The medical term for red blood cells is erythr/o/cytes Macro/scopic structures are visible to the naked eye. Micro/ scopic structures, such as the alveoli, are visible only through the use of a micro/scope. Micro/scopic capillaries are visible to the eye through the use of a magnifying instrument called a micro/scope

If a lung disorder destroys or damages enough alveol/ar sacs, there is less surface area for gas exchange, and breathlessness results. Clusters of air sacs at the end of the bronchi/al tree are called alveoli

Process of gas exchange between the atmosphere and body cells is called respiration and it occurs in two phases. External respiration occurs each time we inhale (breathe in) air. This process results in a gas exchange (O2loading and CO2 unloading) between air-filled chambers of the lungs and the blood in the pulmonary capillaries. (See Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts, structure 10.)

Internal (cellular) respiration is exchange of gases (O2 unloading and CO2 loading) between the blood and body tissue cells. This process occurs inbody tissues when O2 (carried in blood from the lungs to nourish the body’s cells) is exchanged for CO2. The CO2 travels in the bloodstream tothe lungs and is exhaled through the mouth or nose.

You may have to read this frame a few times to understand the process of respiration. Nevertheless, see if you can differentiate between the two types of respiration and also identify the symbols for oxygen and carbondioxide.

Gas exchange between the body and the outside environment is called external respiration Gas exchange at the cellular level between the blood and body tissue cells is called internal respiration

Pneumon/ia, an acute inflammation and infection of the lungs in which alveoli filll with secretions, is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Lung abscess, an abnormal localized collection of fluid, may be caused by pneumonia. Therapeutic treatment with pneum/o/centesis may be required.

Pneumon/ o/ melan/ osis is an abnormal condition of black lung caused by inhalation of black dust (a disease common among coal miners), which is also called pneumomelanosisor pneumoconiosis. The lungs are divided into five lobes: three lobes in the right lung and two lobes in the left lung. Both lungs supply blood with O2 inhaled from the environment and dispose of waste CO2 in the exhaled air.

Each lung is enclosed in a double-folded membrane called the (11) pleura. Label the pleura in Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura. Pleur/itisis also an inflammation,of the pleura.

A/pneais a temporary loss of breathing that results in brief or prolonged absence of spontaneous respiration. It is a serious symptom, especially in patients with other potentially life-threatening conditions. Causes include respiratory arrest or respiratory failure.

A term that literally means without breathing is a/pnea.

When a/pnea occurs in premature infants, the immature central nervous system (CNS) fails to maintain a consistent respiratory rate. Thus, there are occasional long pauses between periods of regular breathing. An infant whose mother used cocaine during pregnancy is also likely to develop life-threatening a/pnea. When there is temporary cessation of breathing, the event is documented in the medical record as a/pnea.

Another type of a/pnea, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), may be due to enlarged tonsils that cause an airway obstruction. Treatment includes use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.(See Figure Sleep apnea.)

Because of airway obstruction, OSA patients stop breathing multiple times each night. A/pnea is followed by a gasping breath that often awakens the patient and results in sleep deprivation, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating during the day. This condition occurs most commonly in middle-aged, obese men who snore excessively.


Sleep apnea. (A) Airway obstruction caused by enlarged tonsils eventually leads to obstructive sleep apnea. (B) Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine used to treat sleep apnea.

Dys/pnea is normal when due to vigorous work or athletic activity. Dys/pnea can also occur as a result of various disorders of the respiratory system, such as pleurisy. A patient with pleurisy may experience dys/pnea.

Eu/pneais normal breathing, as distinguished from dys/pneaand a/pnea. Orth/o/pnea is a condition in which there is labored breathing in any posture except in the erect sitting or standing position. To remove fluid from the thorac/ic cavity, a surgical puncture of the chest is performed. This procedure is called thoracentesis, or thorac/o/centesis(See Figure Thoracentesis).

Fluid commonly builds up around the lung(s) in patients with CA or pneumonia. To remove fluid from the thorac/ic cavity, the physician performs the surgical procedure called thorac/o/centesis, also known as thoracentesis.

The (12) diaphragm is a muscular partition that separates the lungs from the abdominal cavity and aids in the process of breathing. Refer Figure Identifying the upper and lower respiratory tracts. Involuntary contraction or twitching of the diaphragm is documented in the medical record as phren/o/spasm



During inspiration, the diaphragm and the inter/cost/al muscles contract. As their name implies, the muscles between adjacent ribs are inter/cost/al muscles. Chronic bronch/itis is an inflammation of the bronchi that persists for a long time. This pulmon/ary disease is commonly caused by cigarette smoking and is characterized by increased production of mucus and obstruction of respiratory passages.


Position of the diaphragm during inspiration (A) and expiration (B).

Bronch/itis may be of short duration, but when it persists for a long time, it may be a more serious pulmon/ary disease called chronic bronch/it is

Chronic bronch/itis results in expectoration of mucus, sputum, or fluids by coughing or spitting.

The larynx contains the organ of sound called vocal cords. When vocal cords become inflamed from overuse or infection, laryng/ itis occurs. This condition results in hoarseness and difficulty speaking.

Pneumon/iais lung inflammation caused by bacteria, a virus, or chemical irritants. Some pneumon/ias affect only one lobe of the lung (lobar pneumon/ia). Others, such as bronch/o/pneumon/ia, involve the lungs and bronchioles.

Pneumocystis pneumon/ia (PCP) is closely associated with a compromised immune system, particularly in patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). PCP is caused by a fungus that resides in or on the normal flora (potentially path/o/gen/ic organisms that reside in, but are harmless to, healthy individuals). The fungus becomes an aggressive path/o/gen in immuno compromised persons.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of respiratory disorders, is characterized by a chronic, partial obstruction of the bronchi and lungs. Three major disorders included in COPD are asthma, chronic bronch/itis, and emphys/ema. (See Figure COPD.)

Chronic bronch/itis, an inflammation of the mucous membranes lining the bronchial airways, is characterized by increased mucus production resulting in a chronic productive cough. (see Figure Chronic bronchitis with inflamed airways and excessive mucus..) Cigarette smoking, environmental irritants, allergic response, and infectious agents cause this condition.

Asthma is a respiratory condition characterized by recurrent attacks of labored or difficult breathing accompanied by wheezing. (See Figure Asthma with narrowed bronchial tubes and swollen mucous membranes.) The medical term for painful or difficult breathing is dys/pnea

Lung CA, associated with smoking, is the leading cause of cancer related deaths in men and women in the United States. It usually spreads rapidly and metastasizes to other parts of the body, making it difficult to diagnose and treat in its early stages.


COPD(A) Chronic bronchitis with inflamed airways and excessive mucus. (B)Emphysema with distended bronchioles and alveoli. (C) Asthma with narrowed bronchial tubes and swollen mucous membranes.

When CA spreads to other parts of the body, the medical term used to describe that condition is metastasize or metastasis

Tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease, produces small lesions, or tubercles, in the lungs. If left untreated, it infects the bones and organs of the entire body. An increase in TB is attributed to the increasing prevalence of AIDS.

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Medical Terminology(Adaptive*) Topics