The thorax protects important internal organs and is involved in breathing. How it is built and what diseases are associated with it, read here.


Of the thorax is the rib cage. It is bounded at the back by the twelve vertebrae of the thoracic spine, in front by the sternum and at the side by twelve ribs each. The lower boundary forms the diaphragm. In shape, the rib cage resembles a barrel whose hoops are represented by the ribs. Read all important information about the thorax here!

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  • What is the thorax?

  • What is the function of the thorax?

  • Where is the thorax?

  • What problems can the thorax cause?

What is the thorax?

Thorax is the medical term for the thorax, which includes the chest cavity and the upper part of the abdominal cavity. On the outer wall, the respiratory muscles begin inside and out. Inside, the thorax is separated into two parts, the pleural cavities. The lower border to the abdominal space represents the diaphragm.

In contrast to the pediatric thorax, the thorax of adults is generally flattened. But also in adulthood there are different forms: people of the type Pykniker have a strongly vaulted chest, those of the type Leptosome have a rather flat, narrow, elongated thorax. With age, the ribcage becomes flatter, the diaphragm sinks, and breathing increasingly becomes abdominal breathing.

What is the function of the thorax?

The thorax is an elastic-springing system that allows breathing through the muscles between the ribs. On the inside of the ribs, there are muscles that lower the ribs, thus reducing the size of the chest cavity and allowing for exhalation. On the outside of the ribs run muscles that lift the ribs and allow inhalation. The diaphragm, a thin muscle plate that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity, also supports the breathing: When the diaphragm contracts, it comes to the inhalation, the abdominal organs bulge outward. When the diaphragm relaxes, the abdominal organs push inwards again and the diaphragm is pushed back upwards. As a result, the space of the chest cavity is reduced again and it comes to exhale.

Another function of the bony thorax is the protection of the organs: the heart and lungs, as well as the large vessels.

Where is the thorax?

The thorax is the upper part of the trunk. It contains the organs of the thoracic cavity - the heart, the lungs, the trachea, the esophagus, large vessels. The diaphragm separates it from the organs of the abdominal cavity.

What problems can the thorax cause?

The thorax can suffer various injuries, such as broken ribs, which in turn can injure the lungs and cause pneumothorax (a collapse of the lungs).

In old age, when the thoracic spine is more curved than in younger years, it hinders breathing.

Malformations of the thorax such as a chicken breast (pectus carinatum) or funnel chest (pectus excavatum) may also cause respiratory problems as well as relocation of the heart.

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