Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How do we breathe?

  1. May 6, 2006 #1
    I always thought breathing was caused by the diagphragm and intercostal (rib) muscles causing the lungs and chest cavity to expand, thus decreasing the pressure (Boyle's law) to below atmospheric pressure and causing air to rush in to achieve equal pressure inside and outside the lungs.
    But I have just seen a film of open heart surgery where much of the ribcage was removed and the lungs still moved up and down at about the same rate as normal breathing.
    Clearly some mechanism of breathing was going on without rib muscles; is my knowledge of the human breathing mechanism wrong or do they use some kind of artificial means of ventilation?
    If the second option is correct then how does this artificial mechanism work?
    And if the first option is correct then how do we breathe?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 6, 2006 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    During open heart surgery, the patient would be on a ventillator for respiratory support. The ventillator works on positive pressure, forcing air into the lungs. Once the air is in the lungs, gas exchange occurs the same way as when we normally breathe by a negative pressure mechanism.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook