Pneumothorax (Collapsed Lung) Symptoms, Causes, and Prognosis
George Schiffman, MD, FCCP
Dr. Schiffman received his B.S. degree with High Honors in biology from Hobart College in 1976. He then moved to Chicago where he studied biochemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle. He attended Rush Medical College where he received his M.D. degree in 1982 and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. He completed his Internal Medicine internship and residency at the University of California, Irvine.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
- Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) definition and facts
- What is a pneumothorax?
- What is tension pneumothorax?
- What are the signs and symptoms of pneumothorax?
- What causes pneumothorax?
- What are the types of pneumothorax?
- Who is at risk for pneumothorax?
- How is pneumothorax diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for pneumothorax?
- What is the prognosis for pneumothorax?
Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) definition and facts
- A pneumothorax is a collection of free air in the chest cavity (thoracic cavity) that causes the lung to collapse.
- Pneumothorax may occur on its own in the absence of underlying disease; this is termed spontaneous pneumothorax.
- Pneumothorax may also occur because of an injury or underlying lung disease.
- A small spontaneous pneumothorax may resolve without treatment. A pneumothorax arising as a result of lung disease or injury requires immediate treatment.
- Treatment may include insertion of a chest tube or aspiration of the free air in the chest cavity.
What is a pneumothorax?
A pneumothorax is a collection of free air in the chest outside the lung that causes the lung to collapse.
What is tension pneumothorax?
In some instances, the lung continues to leak air into the chest cavity and results in compression of the chest structures, including vessels that return blood to the heart. This is referred to as a tension pneumothorax and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
What are the signs and symptoms of pneumothorax?
Symptoms of a pneumothorax include
- chest pain that usually has a sudden onset.
- The pain is sharp and may lead to feelings of tightness in the chest.
- Shortness of breath,
- rapid heart rate,
- rapid breathing,
- and fatigue are other symptoms of pneumothorax.
The skin may develop a bluish color (termed cyanosis) due to decreases in blood oxygen levels.
What causes pneumothorax?
The lungs normally inflate by increasing the size of the chest cavity, resulting in a negative (vacuum) pressure in the pleural space (the area within the chest cavity but outside the lungs). If air enters the pleural space either by a hole in the lung or the chest wall, the pressure in the pleural space equals the pressure outside the body. Thus, the vacuum is lost and the lung collapses.
Spontaneous pneumothorax is caused by a rupture of a cyst or a small sac (bleb) on the surface of the lung. Pneumothorax may also occur following an injury to the chest wall such as a fractured rib, any penetrating injury (gunshot or stabbing), surgical invasion of the chest, or may be deliberately induced in order to collapse the lung. A pneumothorax can also develop as a result of underlying lung diseases, including
What are the types of pneumothorax?
A spontaneous pneumothorax, also referred to as a primary pneumothorax, occurs in the absence of a traumatic injury to the chest or a known lung disease. A secondary (also termed complicated) pneumothorax occurs due to an underlying condition.
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