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Second largest hollow space of the body, enclosed by the ribs, vertebral column, and breastbone and separated from the abdominal cavity by the diaphragm. It contains the lungs and bronchi, part of the esophagus and trachea, and the heart and major blood vessels. A membrane called the pleura lines the cavity (parietal pleura) and continues over the lung (visceral pleura) and the rest of the cavity's contents, defining a space called the mediastinum. Disorders include blood (hemothorax) or air (pneumothorax, which can lead to atelectasis) in the pleural cavity and inflammation of the pleura (pleurisy).
Variants of THORACIC CAVITY
thoracic cavity or chest cavity
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on thoracic cavity, visit Britannica.com.