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Collapsed Lung

Collapsed Lung Quick Overview

  • A collapsed lung or pneumothorax 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, which is the medical term for a collapsed lung.
  • There are two types of pneumothorax, tension and simple.
  • Causes of collapsed lung include
    • trauma to the chest cavity (fractured rib, penetrating trauma from a bullet, knife, or other sharp object),
    • cigarette smoking,
    • drug abuse, and
    • certain lung diseases.
  • In some cases the lung may collapse without an apparent injury, called spontaneous pneumothorax.
  • Symptoms of collapsed lung include sharp, stabbing chest pain that worsens on breathing or with deep inhalation that often radiates to the shoulder and or back; and a dry, hacking cough. In severe cases a person may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment.
  • See a doctor for any type of chest pain or suspected pneumothorax.
  • Pneumothorax is usually treated with removal of air under pressure, by inserting a needle attached to a syringe into the chest cavity. A chest tube may be used and left in place for several days. In some cases, surgery may be needed.
  • The prognosis of pneumothorax depends on its cause. In most cases once the pneumothorax has healed, there is no long-term effect on health, but spontaneous pneumothorax can recur in up to 50% of people.

What does a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) look like?

Picture of Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/11/2015

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Pneumothorax »

Pneumothorax is defined as the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity.

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