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Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)

Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax):

A collapsed lung 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.

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 collapsed lung may be severe enough to lead to decreased amounts of oxygen in the blood, causing the patient to feel short of breath.
-This type of pneumothorax can be small and "stable", and not require emergency treatment.


Symptoms of a pneumothorax include chest pain that usually has a sudden onset. The pain is sharp and may lead to feelings of tightness in the chest. Shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, cough, and fatigue are other symptoms of pneumothorax. The skin may develop a bluish color (termed cyanosis) due to decreases in blood oxygen levels.


A small pneumothorax without underlying lung disease may resolve on its own in one to two weeks. 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.


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