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Collapsed Lung (cont.)

Types of Collapsed Lung

There are two types of pneumothorax, tension and simple.

Tension pneumothorax

  • 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.

Simple pneumothorax

  • 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 partially collapsed lung may be severe enough to lead to decreased amounts of oxygen in the blood and shortness 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.

Collapsed Lung Causes

The primary cause of a pneumothorax is trauma to the chest cavity. A fractured rib, for example, could puncture the lung. Moreover, penetrating trauma from a bullet, knife, or other sharp object can directly puncture the lung.

Who is at risk for pneumothorax?

  • Sometimes, very tall, thin people are prone to a spontaneous pneumothorax. In this condition, the lung collapses after minimal or no trauma.
  • Other risk factors are cigarette smoking and recreational drug use or abuse.

Spontaneous pneumothorax

  • This refers to a condition in which the lung collapses with no apparent injury or trauma.
  • Abnormal, small, air-filled sacs in the lung called "blebs" typically rupture and leak air into the pleural space, leading to the spontaneous pneumothorax. This happens in the cases of tall and thin people, who because of the shape of their lungs and chest cavity, are seemingly more prone to these defects.
  • Shortness of breath and sharp, stabbing chest pain develops in apparently healthy people.
  • Cigarette smokers are at greater risk for spontaneous pneumothorax.
  • Recreational drug users who inhale deeply and forcefully are also at greater risk.

Traumatic pneumothorax

  • Direct trauma to the chest wall from either blunt or penetrating trauma causes this condition.
  • Trauma also can come from diagnostic or therapeutic medical procedures that can result in a punctured lung such as needle aspiration of fluid from the pleural space, a lung biopsy, or insertion of a large IV catheter into a vein near the neck.

Disease-related pneumothorax

Disease-related pneumothorax can occur due to abnormalities in the lung tissue.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/11/2015

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Pneumothorax »

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

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