I. Pulmonary Ventilation:
Pulmonary ventilation is the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange. The respiratory system uses both a negative pressure system and the contraction of muscles to achieve pulmonary ventilation. The negative pressure system of the respiratory system involves the establishment of a negative pressure gradient between the alveoli and the external atmosphere. The pleural membrane seals the lungs and maintains the lungs at a pressure slightly below that of the atmosphere when the lungs are at rest. This results in air following the pressure gradient and passively filling the lungs at rest. As the lungs fill with air, the pressure within the lungs rises until it matches the atmospheric pressure. At this point, more air can be inhaled by the contraction of the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles, increasing the volume of the thorax and reducing the pressure of the lungs below that of the atmosphere again. To exhale air, the diaphragm and external intercostal muscles relax while the internal intercostal muscles contract to reduce the volume of the thorax and increase the pressure within the thoracic cavity. The pressure gradient is now reversed, resulting in the exhalation of air until the pressures inside the lungs and outside of the body are equal. At this point, the elastic nature of the lungs causes them to recoil back to their resting volume, restoring the negative pressure gradient present during inhalation.
II. External Respiration:
External respiration is the exchange of gases between the air filling the alveoli and the blood in the capillaries surrounding the walls of the alveoli. Air entering the lungs from the atmosphere has a higher partial pressure of oxygen and a lower partial pressure of carbon dioxide than does the blood in the capillaries. The difference in partial pressures causes the gases to diffuse passively along their pressure gradients from high to low pressure through the simple squamous epithelium lining of the alveoli. The net result of external respiration is the movement of oxygen from the air into the blood and the movement of carbon dioxide from the blood into the air. The oxygen can then be transported to the body’s tissues while carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere during exhalation.
III. Internal Respiration:
Internal respiration is the exchange of gases between the blood in capillaries and the tissues of the body. Capillary blood has a higher partial pressure of oxygen and a lower partial pressure of carbon dioxide than the tissues through which it passes. The difference in partial pressures leads to the diffusion of gases along their pressure gradients from high to low pressure through the endothelium lining of the capillaries. The net result of internal respiration is the diffusion of oxygen into the tissues and the diffusion of carbon dioxide into the blood.