What's the treatment for atelectasis?The goal of treatment for atelectasis is to remove pulmonary (lung) secretions and re-expand the affected lung tissue. The primary treatment for acute massive atelectasis is correction of the underlying cause. If atelectasis is due to obstruction of the airway, the first step in treatment is to remove the cause of the blockage. This may be done by coughing, suctioning, or bronchoscopy. If a tumor is the cause of atelectasis, surgery may be necessary to remove it. Antibiotics are commonly used
to fight the infection that often accompanies atelectasis. Some people receive relief from chest physical therapy. This can mechanically remove mucous blocking the airways through clapping, patting, and massaging the chest and back over the lungs. Sometimes suctioning the airway with a small plastic tube may help. If these measures fail or when the patient cannot cooperate with them, fiberoptic bronchoscopy should be performed. Once bronchial obstruction is confirmed, therapy is directed at the obstruction and at the infection usually present.
Chronic atelectasis often is treated with antibiotics because infection is almost inevitable. In cases where recurrent or long-lasting infection is disabling or where significant bleeding occurs, the affected section of the lung may be surgically removed. Controlling the pain in people with chest traumas or people who have undergone surgery is very important. This enables them to do deep breathing exercises, forcing air into their lungs. These exercises open the alveoli and reduce atelectasis. People who smoke can decrease their risk of atelectasis after surgery by stopping smoking 6 to 8 weeks before an operation. After an operation, all people should be encouraged to breathe deeply, cough regularly, and move about as soon as possible. In certain cases, the affected part of the lung may be surgically removed when recurring or chronic infections become disabling or bleeding is significant. If a tumor is blocking the airway, relieving the obstruction by surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or laser therapy may prevent atelectasis from progressing and recurrent obstructive pneumonia from developing. The use of breathing devices to encourage voluntary deep breathing (incentive spirometry) and certain exercises, including changing position to increase the drainage of lung secretions, may help to prevent atelectasis.