Definition of Trachea

The trachea, colloquially called the windpipe, is a cartilaginous tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs, allowing the passage of air, and so is present in almost all air-breathing animals with lungs. Only in the lungfish, where the lung is connected to the pharynx and the larynx, is it absent. The trachea extends from the larynx and branches into the two primary bronchi. At the top of the trachea the cricoid cartilage attaches it to the larynx. This is the only complete ring, the others being incomplete rings of reinforcing cartilage. The trachealis muscle joins the ends of the rings and these are joined vertically by bands of fibrous connective tissue the annular ligaments of trachea. The epiglottis closes the opening to the larynx during swallowing.

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The trachea develops in the second month of development. It is lined with an epithelium that has goblet cells which produce protective mucins. An inflammatory condition, also involving the larynx and bronchi, called croup can result in a barking cough. A tracheotomy is often performed for ventilation in surgical operations where needed. Intubation is also carried out for the same reason by the inserting of a tube into the trachea. From 2008, operations have transplanted a windpipe grown by stem cells, and synthetic windpipes; their success is however doubtful.