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What is a pneumothorax?

A pneumothorax is collection of air or gas in the pleural space (the space surrounding the lungs). Pneumothorax can occur spontaneously ("out of the blue", with or without underlying lung disease), follow a fractured rib, occur in the wake of chest surgery, or be deliberately induced in order to collapse the lung. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk for

spontaneous pneumothorax.

Pneumothorax is commonly called collapsed lung. Each lung is covered by a membrane, called the pleura, that folds back to make a lining for the chest cavity. If air collects in the pleural space between the rib cage and a lung, the air causes part or all of the lung to collapse. Pneumothorax can occur for no apparent reason, called a spontaneous pneumothorax, or can be caused by injury. The most serious type is a tension pneumothorax, where the chest cavity fills with air and the extreme pressure causes the lung to collapse completely. Air can collect between the lung and chest wall can occur for different reasons. The main concern is that this abnormal air can compress the lung and cause breathing problems. In severe cases, a pneumothorax can cause death if it is not treated quickly.

Men who are tall, thin, and under the age of 40 are more likely to experience a simple spontaneous pneumothorax. A complicated spontaneous pneumothorax is more likely to occur in people with lung disease, such as emphysema, or lung conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, tuberculosis, and certain types of pneumonia. Adults and infants who have severe acute respiratory distress syndrome and need the help of a mechanical ventilator to breathe are also more likely to develop pneumothorax.

A larger pneumothorax and a pneumothorax associated with underlying lung disease often require aspiration of the free air and/or placement of a chest tube to evacuate the air. Possible complications of chest tube insertion include pain, infection of the space between the lung and chest wall (the pleural space), hemorrhage (bleeding), fluid accumulation in the lung, and low blood pressure (hypotension). The high pressure oxygen pumped in by the ventilator can damage the lungs. People who suffer a serious chest injury in a motor vehicle accident or violent crime, undergo certain medical procedures that allow air into the chest cavity, or are middle-aged and have had long-term asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema are more likely to have a tension pneumothorax.

More information on pneumothorax

What is a pneumothorax? - A pneumothorax is collection of air or gas in the pleural space (the space surrounding the lungs). Pneumothorax is commonly called collapsed lung.
What causes a pneumothorax? - Pneumothorax is usually caused by an injury to the chest, such as a broken rib or puncture wound. Spontaneous pneumothorax can result from damage to the lungs.
What're the symptoms of pneumothorax? - Symptoms of a pneumothorax vary greatly depending on how much air enters the pleural space, how much of the lung collapses.
How is pneumothorax diagnosed? - The history and physical examination can sometimes make the diagnosis of pneumothorax. A physical examination can confirm the diagnosis.
What's the treatment for a pneumothorax? - The objective of treatment for pneumothorax is to remove the air from the pleural space, allowing the lung to re-expand.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005