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The trachea (IPA tr'aik-i-a), or windpipe, is a tube extending from the larynx to the bronchi in mammals, and from the pharynx to the syrinx in birds, carrying air to the lungs. In insects, air moves into these small tubes through the spiracles, or openings, in the abdomen. It is lined with ciliated cells which push particles out and reinforced with cartilage rings.

In ill or injured persons, the natural airway formed by the trachea may be damaged or closed off. Intubation is the medical procedure of inserting an artificial tube into the trachea to permit breathing. See also choking.

Diseases of the trachea include:

  1. Tracheobronchitis
  2. Tracheomalacia
  3. Tracheal fracture
  4. Airway obstruction
  5. Malignancy

In insects, each segment of the body has a pair of spiracles, each of which has a trachea behind it. These tracheae branch and supply air to the tissues. Insects do not carry oxygen in their blood, as do vertebrates; this limits their size.