Font Size

Collapsed Lung (cont.)

How Do Doctors Treat a Collapsed Lung?

Easing Symptoms

A simple pneumothorax can be eased by holding a soft pillow against the chest wall if the collapsed lung occurs because of a fractured rib from blunt trauma. This splints the fracture and lessens the pain of each breath. Do not tape the ribs or chest wall as this can impair breathing and worsen the situation.

Tension pneumothorax

  • A tension pneumothorax is treated with emergency removal of air under pressure, by inserting a needle attached to a syringe into the chest cavity. If needle decompression is performed before the person gets to the emergency department, transport to the nearest hospital is necessary.
  • Definitive treatment involves placing a plastic tube ("chest tube") within the chest cavity, through a small incision near the armpit, under suction and water seal. This chest tube may need to stay in place for a few days before it can be removed.

Simple pneumothorax

  • A simple pneumothorax often is treated in a similar fashion to the tension pneumothorax with a chest tube and admission to the hospital.
  • If the simple pneumothorax is small, and not expanding, the doctor may try various inhalation techniques with 100% oxygen to cause spontaneous re-expansion of the collapsed lung segment.
  • A small catheter can be placed in the chest and the air removed via suction techniques with a syringe and a 3-way stopcock.
  • After multiple collapsed lungs or persistent collapse, chemical or surgical adhesion of the lung to the chest wall (called pleurodesis) may be necessary and is performed by a pulmonary or surgical specialist.

Follow-up after a collapsed lung consists of an outpatient physical examination by your doctor and repeat X-rays in the short term. Recovery from a collapsed lung generally takes about one to two weeks. Most people can return to full activity upon clearance by the doctor.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

Must Read Articles Related to Collapsed Lung

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe lung condition caused by learn more >>
Asthma Asthma is a disease that affects the breathing passages of the learn more >>
Asthma FAQ
Asthma FAQs Asthma is a disease marked by inflammation of the airways that cause difficulty breathing. Ther are millions who suffer from this chronic disease, and this arti...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax):

Collapsed Lung - Symptoms

What were the symptoms of your collapsed lung?

Pneumothorax - Describe Your Experience

Please describe your experience with pneumothorax.

Pneumothorax - Causes

What was the cause of your pneumothorax?

Collapsed Lung - Treatment

What was the treatment for your collapsed lung?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Pneumothorax »

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

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary