John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
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.
A collapsed lung refers to a condition in which the
space between the wall of the chest cavity and the lung itself fills with air,
causing all or a portion of the lung to collapse. Air usually enters this space,
called the pleural space, through an injury to the chest wall or a hole in the lung. This result is called a pneumothorax.
There are two types of pneumothorax, tension and simple.
This refers to a condition in which air builds up
under pressure and usually totally collapses one or both of the lungs. This
causes severe dysfunction of the cardiovascular system.
The pressure built up in the lung cavity slows or
stops the return of blood to the heart from the veins. Because the heart has
less blood available to pump into the main arteries, blood pressure drops, and
other vital organs are rapidly affected.
In an affected person does not receive emergency treatment, death may result.
In a simple pneumothorax, there is usually only
partial collapse of a lung. The pressure built up in the lung cavity is not
enough to cause cardiovascular dysfunction.
The collapsed lung may be severe enough to lead to
decreased amounts of oxygen in the blood, causing the patient to feel short of breath.
This type of pneumothorax can be small and "stable", and not require emergency treatment.
However, the pneumothorax may slowly or rapidly progress to cause more severe cardiovascular impairment and may often need to be monitored.