Thoracic cavity

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Thoracic cavity
Latin Cavitas thoracis, cavum thoracis
Gray's p.524
Thoracic cavity
FMA 7565
Anatomical terminology
Thoracic cavity seen from left. Lungs, among others removed.

The thoracic cavity (or chest cavity) is the chamber of the body of vertebrates that is protected by the thoracic wall (rib cage and associated skin, muscle, and fascia). The central compartment of the thoracic cavity is the mediastinum. There are two openings of the thoracic cavity, a superior thoracic aperture known as the thoracic inlet and a lower inferior thoracic aperture known as the thoracic outlet.

The thoracic cavity includes the tendons as well as the cardiovascular system which could be damaged from injury to the back, spine or the neck.


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 cavity also contains two openings one at the top, the superior thoracic aperture also called the thoracic inlet, and a lower inferior thoracic aperture which is much larger than the inlet.

Clinical significance[edit]

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.

Additional images[edit]

See also[edit]

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see anatomical terminology.


  1. ^ Eskandarlou, M.; Moaddab, A. H. (2010). "Chest wall necrosis and empyema resulting from attempting suicide by injection of petroleum into the pleural cavity". Emergency Medicine Journal 27 (8): 616–8. doi:10.1136/emj.2009.073486. PMID 20558490. 

External links[edit]

  • thoraxlesson3 at The Anatomy Lesson by Wesley Norman (Georgetown University)