Thoracic Cavity

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The human body functions with the help of all the systems working together. The various systems that are present in our body are, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the excretory system, the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the system of bones and muscles. All of these systems work together and one organ can be seen in more than one system. Here in this article, we will learn about thoracic cavity meaning, thoracic cavity organs, structure, and understand more about the meaning of what is thoracic cavity.  

What is Thoracic Cavity?

The thoracic cavity meaning is that it is a hollow space inside the human body. It is also known as the chest cavity. The thoracic cavity is protected by the thoracic wall. The thoracic wall comprises the rib cage, muscle, and fascia. The mediastinum is known as the central compartment of the thorax cavity. The actual thoracic cavity meaning is that it has two openings that are superior thoracic aperture and lower inferior thoracic aperture. The superior one is known as the thoracic cavity inlet and the lower one is known as the thoracic cavity outlet. The tendons and the cardiovascular system are also included in the thoracic cavity. The rib cage protects them from injuries. 

Thoracic Cavity Organs

The thoracic cavity can sometimes be also called the mid-thoracic cavity. The thoracic cavity organs are the thymus gland, the heart, the lungs, the tracheobronchial tree, and the pleurae. In the superior mediastinum, the thymus gland is located but it may be extended to the neck also. Another name for the thoracic cavity is the chest cavity. The chest cavity is surrounded by the upper respiratory tract which is composed of the nose, the pharynx, the upper respiratory tract organs. They are located outside the chest structure. 

Thoracic Cavity Structure

The thoracic cavity contains three potential spaces that are lined with mesothelium, the pleural cavities, and the pericardial cavity. In the centre of the chest between the lungs is the mediastinum that comprises the organs that are located inside it. Structures within the thoracic cavity include:

  • Oesophagus of the digestive system

  • Thymus gland

  • Vagus nerve and parasympathetic veins.

  • Diaphragm, trachea, bronchi, lungs. 

  • The heart 

  • The superior and inferior vena cava.

  • Pulmonary vein and artery. 

The thoracic cavity diagram is drawn below:

[Image will be uploaded soon]

Pleural Membrane

Serous membrane lines the chest cavity. It is a thin fluid. This portion is known as the parietal pleura. On the lungs, this membrane is called the visceral pleura. When this membrane covers the oesophagus, the heart, and the other great vessels, it is called the mediastinal pleura. Due to atmospheric pressure, the parietal pleura and the visceral pleura tend to touch each other and this friction between them is controlled by the serous membrane. The serous membrane does so by providing the lubricating action. The pleura is made up of endothelial cells that have a thin base which is made up of loose connective tissue. Several diseases are affecting the pleural membrane. It can be other than primary tumours that are transferred there via a network of blood vessels. Rupturing of the parietal pleura or the visceral pleura can also cause contamination in the membrane. When fluid accumulates in the pleural cavity it is known as hydrothorax. If the accumulated fluid has the presence of blood then it is known as hemothorax. Similarly, if it has pus then it is known as pyothorax. 

Disease-Related to the Thoracic Cavity

We learned about thoracic cavity meaning and pleurisy is the condition when inflammation of the pleura takes place. It affects one or both sides of the pleura. Two forms are:

  • Simple, dry pleurisy

  • Exudative pleurisy

This pleurisy condition can be very painful as the pleura is supplied by a network of nerves. The common symptoms that can be seen are fever, pain, shortness of breath. To treat such conditions, evacuation of fluid and alleviation of the underlying condition of the infected lung is done. Chylothorax is the condition when the thoracic duct gets ruptured which is the main channel for lymph. This lymph can then escape into pleural space. When an acute infection of various tissues of the pleura takes place, this is known as Epidemic pleurodynia. It is also known as Bornholm disease. Group B coxsackieviruses or some other enteroviruses are responsible for this. Due to this disease, there is a pain in the chest muscles and the upper part of the abdomen. It increases by respiration and cough and also a pain in muscles can be seen. 


From the above paragraph we understood the meaning of what is thoracic cavity. We can conclude that the thoracic cavity is of great importance to us. It comprises various important organs that are responsible for the proper functioning of the human body. The thoracic wall protects the thoracic cavity. The pleural membrane also protects it and lines along this cavity. It reduces friction between the parietal pleura and the visceral pleura. By the above paragraphs, we can understand the actual thoracic cavity meaning. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Chest Cavity?

Answer: The chest cavity is also called the thoracic cavity. It is a hollow space inside the human body and comprises various organs such as the heart, the lungs, the oesophagus, and other important blood vessels and nerves.

2. Name Some Important Organs that are Present in the Thoracic Cavity.

Answer: Some important organs in the thoracic cavity are:

  • The heart

  • Thymus gland

  • Vagus nerve

  • The lungs

  • Oesophagus.