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Lungs 101

What is the Respiratory System and how does it work?

The respiratory system is made up of organs and tissues that help you breathe. The main parts of this system are the airways, the lungs and linked blood vessels, and the muscles that enable breathing. Your lungs are organs in your chest that allow your body to take in oxygen from the air. They also help remove carbon dioxide (a waste gas that can be toxic) from your body. This is called gas exchange.

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The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) have created a number of health information topics for the public on their website. The Respiratory System info sheet provides a breakdown of the related organs and how they work to enable you to breath.

What is Respiratory Failure?

A problem that interferes with Respiratory failure is a condition in which not enough oxygen passes from your lungs into your blood. Your body's organs, such as your heart and brain, need oxygen-rich blood to work well. Respiratory failure also can occur if your lungs can't properly remove carbon dioxide (a waste gas) from your blood. Too much carbon dioxide in your blood can harm your body's organs. Both of these problems—a low oxygen level and a high carbon dioxide level in the blood—can occur at the same time.

More Information...

See the NHLBI health topic Respiratory Failure for the complete information sheet.