Pneumothorax


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview

Pneumothorax is a painful condition of the lung, commonly referred to as a collapsed lung. In a healthy body, lungs touch the walls of the chest. When air enters this space between the lung and the chest wall, called the pleural space, lung collapses partially or fully giving rise to pneumothorax.  Air enters this pleural space due to an injury or because of a leak in the lung. This lung collapse can exert pressure on the heart, impair oxygenation,and ventilation. At times pneumothorax can be a life-threatening event.

Symptoms of pneumothorax

In the initial stages of pneumothorax, symptoms may not be very prominent. The intensity of the symptoms also varies depending on what caused the lung collapse.In certain cases, symptoms are hardly noticeable and can be detected only through an x-ray or a scan.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, tightness of the chest
  • Sometimes pain occurs in the shoulder and/or back
  • Dry cough due to irritation of the diaphragm
  • Shooting pain while inhaling
  • Rapid breathing
  • Getting tired or fatigued easily
  • Blue discoloration of skin or lips due to insufficient oxygen levels in the body
  • Loss of consciousness or coma

In the case of Tension Pneumothorax, cardiovascular collapse can occur which is life-threatening.

What causes pneumothorax?

Causes of pneumothorax can mainly be primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP), secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP) and traumatic pneumothorax.

Primary spontaneous pneumothorax(PSP)

People with no known history of lung disease experience this due to various reasons such as:

  • Smoking tobacco or cannabis
  • Tall men
  • Family history of pneumothorax

Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax (SSP)

This is caused due to various lung diseases and is considered more dangerous than PSP.

  • Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Severe asthma

Connective tissue disorders also cause SSP

  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Marfan’s syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Polymyositis and dermatomyositis
  • Systematic sclerosis

Traumatic pneumothorax

This occurs when there is a trauma to the lungs. Assaults, accidents, fracture of the ribs, certain medical procedures cause a puncture in the chest wall leading to a collapsed lung. Few instances are:

Ruptured air blisters

Air blisters, which develop on the lungs, can burst to cause the air to leak into the pleural space.

Mechanical ventilation

People who need ventilators during emergencies have a chance of a collapsed lung due to an imbalance of air pressure within the chest.

Types of Pneumothorax

Tension pneumothorax and simple pneumothorax are two types of lung conditions that lead to a collapsed lung.  A rather rare type of pneumothorax that affects only women is called Catamenial pneumothorax.

Tension pneumothorax

This condition occurs due to pressure building up in the pleural space and leading to the collapse of one or both the lungs. It happens when inhaled air is trapped in the pleural space and cannot be let out through exhalation. Trapped air puts pressure on the chest walls leading to a lung collapse.Pressure in the lung cavity slows or stops the blood flow to the heart, affecting the cardiovascular system. With less blood flow into the arteries, blood pressure goes down affecting the vital organs in the body. Emergency medical help is required to save the life of a person.

Simple pneumothorax

 In this case, the lung collapses partially causing difficulty in breathing. It is not severe enough to lead to cardiovascular dysfunction. But, this too requires monitoring by the doctor to avoid complications in the future.

Catamenial pneumothorax

Catamenial pneumothorax is extremely rare and affects only women. The exact cause of catamenial pneumothorax is not known. According to observation, 72 hours before or after the menstrual cycle, cysts from inside a woman’s chest release blood between the lung and chest causing pneumothorax. Symptoms include chest pain that radiates to the shoulders. Most often, the right lung is affected. While treatment is similar to that of other forms of pneumothorax, doctors also recommend hormonal therapy.

Who is prone to Pneumothorax?

 Smokers

People who smoke tobacco and cannabis are at risk of a collapsed lung. Smoking also causes cancer. It also affects the ability to draw oxygen.

Mechanical ventilation

People who require assistance in breathing, using mechanical ventilation are at a higher risk of pneumothorax.

Family history

If there is a history of lung diseases in the family, then there is a chance of pneumothorax occurring.

Air blisters

Tall and underweight people aged between 20 and 40 years are prone to pneumothorax caused by ruptured air blisters.

Lung diseases

Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are most likely to have a collapsed lung.

Pneumothorax patients

Those that have experienced a collapsed lung are at risk of a recurrence.

Fractured ribs

People suffering from fractures of the rib due to an injury or osteoporosis, or malnutrition are very susceptible to a pneumothorax.

Premature babies

Children born prematurely often require oxygen support, as their lungs are not fully developed. In severe cases, they are put on mechanical ventilators making them prone to a collapsed lung.

How do specialists diagnose pneumothorax?

Diagnosing pneumothorax is complex because of the variety of symptoms and types.

  • Doctors do a clinical examination and find out the history of the patient, which includes habits, family history of lung diseases. The specialist checks for any abnormal sound while breathing
  • Specialists ask for an x-ray examination to check for abnormalities in the lung
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan is done for more detailed images especially in the case of trauma patients
  • Ultrasound imaging is also used to identify the size and severity of a pneumothorax
  • In the case of tension pneumothorax, the evidence of lung collapse is so clear that it calls for immediate medical attention to avoid further damage or death
  • Bronchoscopy might be performed to look for obstructions in the air pathways.

Pediatric pneumothorax

Children without any known lung disease can get primary spontaneous pneumothorax. Among children, secondary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs due to congenital malformations, inhaling a foreign object, measles, and trauma to the chest.

Babies born prematurely have underdeveloped lungs, they are in an intensive care unit with oxygen support. Doctors need to monitor for any air leaks so that treatment can be given immediately.

What is the right time to seek medical help?

If a person experiences any one of the following symptoms of pneumothorax, then it is time to get immediate medical help. Anydelay can lead to serious complications.

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Trauma to the chest which can be due to an accident, a motor vehicle crash, fall on the ribs, gunshot, stab wounds which call for emergency medical assistance
  • Coughing blood post-injury

Treatment for pneumothorax

The extent of lung collapse determines the course of treatment along with the general medical condition of the patient. Treatment aims at relieving the pressure on the lungs and preventing recurrence of pneumothorax. For a successful recovery, it is crucial to understand the cause and the extent of the damage to the lung.

Observation

In minor cases with no symptoms, the lung expands on its own and does not require any medical intervention. Yet, it is important to visit the doctor regularly to assess the recovery. Breathing exercises are necessary to increase lung capacity.

Needle aspiration

In this procedure, a hollow needle with a flexible tube is inserted into the pleural space to suck out the air. While the needle is removed, the syringe witha catheter is allowed to remain inside for a few hours to ensure the lung expands.

Chest tube insertion

It involves inserting a chest tube to suck out the air. This chest tube is attached to a one-way valve to remove the air continuously until the lung expands.

Surgery

With the help of a tiny fiber-optic camera, the surgeon makes a small incision to seal the leaking area. A larger incision may be needed in cases of bigger and multiple leaks. Maintaining airway pressure during the surgery is important and requires an experienced anesthesiologist.

Pleurodesis

This procedure is for patients with recurring pneumothorax. Pleurodesis aims at making the lung membranes stick to the chest cavity. Specialists inject medicine into the pleural space, which triggers an inflammatory reaction.  This ensures air and fluid do not accumulate. Once the pleura stick to the chest wall, it protects against the furtherformation of a pneumothorax. Patients must not consume any anti-inflammatory agents like ibuprofen or naproxen for at least 3 weeks.

Non-surgical repair

Doctors may prescribe medication to numb the pain, and to prevent infections.

Precautions to take during the healing process

Recovery from any illness depends not only on the treatment but also on the care taken during the process of healing.

  • In case of minor collapse of the lung, low-impact exercise along with rest helps the healing process. Make sure to follow your doctor’s advice as well as ensure you keep up the mandated medical checkups to monitor the progress
  • Avoid playing sports. Take care not to exert by doing strenuous exercises
  • Do not lift any heavy objects as it puts pressure on the breathing. Avoid activities such as vacuuming, lawn mowing as you can inhale dust particles. Wear a breathing mask if you are exposed to pollution
  • Keep track of any differences in breathing, chest pain, fever or any other complications. Be sure to inform the doctor accordingly
  • Avoid air travel for at least 3 weeks after the treatment
  • Do not travel to more than 7,500 feet above sea level. Higher altitudes have lower oxygen levels and can cause shortness of breath, called altitude sickness
  • Take pain medication as and when needed and prescribed by the doctor
  • Inform the doctor if the medication is not enabling relief

Is surgery an option for Pneumothorax?

Most serious cases of pneumothorax require surgery to correct the situation. In most of the emergencies like accident cases, rib fractures, and stab wounds, surgery is the only option to revive the lungs.

When is emergency medical help needed?

  • Recent or increased shortness of breath
  • Profuse sweating and a feeling of passing out
  • Fingernail, toes, and lips turning blue
  • Front of the neck or throat pushed to one side
  • Incoherent, exhibiting difficulty in thinking

Prognosis for Pneumothorax

  • Normal recovery from a collapsed lung takes up to 2 weeks. In minor cases of pneumothorax, there is complete recovery and people can get back to leading normal lives
  • In secondary spontaneous pneumothorax, there is a 50% chance of recurrence. It is important to follow your specialist’s advice to avoid recurrence
  • Tension pneumothorax is a very serious condition caused due to an injury. Immediate medical help is necessary for the patient’s survival
  • There is a chance of pneumothorax recurring in most people within one to two years of the first occurrence. Work with your doctor closely to manage the condition.
  • Avoid smoking, high altitude travel,and scuba diving to reduce the risk of a relapse
  • In cases of partial recovery from pneumothorax, lifestyle has to be altered to manage the collapsed lung

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Seek medical help if you are experiencing shortness of breath
  • Rest and take the medications as prescribed
  • Inform the doctor if you notice an increase in symptoms even after the treatment
Don'ts
  • Smoke
  • Travel to higher altitudes
  • Travel by air till complete recovery
  • Play sports and engage in tiring activities
  • Lift heavy objects

 

 

 

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Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
Vaginoplasty - Post-op care
Vaginoplasty Know more about vaginoplasty, the procedure, post-operative care, best options for treatment, cost, and possible risks. %%sitename%% %
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Okra: How can this nutrient-dense vegetable help you fight diabetes? Okra is a food which is rich in nutrients and minerals which are extremely essential for a healthy…
Juice Plus: Can you really replace actual fruits with pills?  Juice Plus supplements intend to fill nutritional gaps present in our daily diet. But how successful have they…
Bronchoscopy procedure
Bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy is a procedure where in a scope is inserted into the lung pathway to observe any growth…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
stevia side effects
Stevia: A healthy sugar substitute or yet another risky additive? Stevia is a plant native to South America.  It has been used as a natural sugar substitute and…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
smelling-salts-benefits
The actual science behind smelling salts and how it helps in injury recovery Most smelling salts are a mixture of ammonium carbonate and some perfumes which are sniffed by an individual…
hsv igg test
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG is used to detect the presence of the herpes virus so that the…
6 arguments in favour of glucosamine and where can you find it Studies have shown that glucosamine works by preventing the breakdown of cartilage of the joints. This is usually…
Quinine: How gin and tonic came to be known as a potent health elixir The discovery of quinine-containing tree bark is sometimes considered the most serendipitous medical discovery of the 17th century.
anti ds dna test
Anti Ds-DNA antibody Test The  Anti Ds-DNA antibody test is used to diagnose the disease called lupus or more aptly the SLE(Systematic…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
cystatin C
Cystatin C Test Cystatin C is a specific single-chain protein that is found in body fluids and is a biomarker for…
Echocardiogram
Echocardiography – ECHO Echocardiography (commonly known as ECHO) is an imaging modality (similar to ultrasonography) used to visualize the interior of…
hidden benefits walking
9 benefits of walking we bet you didn’t know! Did you know walking can be the miracle pill for eternal youth? Everyone knows walking is good for…
biopsy procedure
Biopsy Biopsy is a procedure of studying a live tissue sample collected from a specific organ for diagnosing a…
gallbladder diet tomato
Gallbladder surgery :Tips on post-operative care and diet What to eat post a gallbladder surgery? What are the key things to avoid if you had a…
Did you know drinking alkaline water could be the healthier choice for you? Ever wondered how safe is your drinking water in terms of pH? Recent studies have revealed that Alkaline…
angiography
Angiography Angiography is a diagnostic tool used to determine the narrowing or blockage in the arteries and veins supplying…
ketoacidosis diabetes
HB1Ac Test HB1Ac test is an important blood test that is used to measure the levels of glycated hemoglobin in…
Gua sha: Scraping away layers of pain with this ancient healing tool Gua sha is an ancient oriental healing method which focuses on scraping the body with specific tools to…
Dragon Fruit – Blessing from Nature’s Basket Dragon fruit is packed with nutrients but low on calories. It is the dream food that can help…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
eating disorder anorexia
Eating Disorders: Lifestyle choice or a psychological condition? Is eating disorder just a harmless bad habit? Or does it represent grim psychological disorders? Do you want…
Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
social media adddiction
Your health in the age of Social Media: Why is digital detox a necessity? Did you know that more than 400 million people are dangerously addicted to social media? Are you one…
labiaplasty
Labiaplasty Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to modify the labia minora and the labia majora. Learn about who can…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…
shakeology woman
Meal replacement or protein drink? Learn all about Shakeology and its claims Shakeology from Beachbody claims to be the most suitable shake that can aid in weight loss, regulate blood…
Diabetes blood test
Diabetic Profile The diabetic profile is a set of tests used for testing and monitoring the various kinds of Diabetes…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Pescatarian Diet 101: What are the inherent health advantages of this diet? People opt to become a pescatarian in order to enrich their bodies with the essential health benefits that…
kefir bottle
Kefir: Top reasons why this probiotic drink should be consumed by you Yet another remarkable fermented food, kefir is a much healthier version of yogurt. These chewy white grains can…
Oil of Oregano: The one-stop essential oil you’ve been looking for Are you plagued by a weak immune system? High body inflammation accompanied by pain and infections? Why not…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
Infertility man
Infertility profile (men) The group of tests that for a part of the infertility profile testing for men includes a range…
Period sanitary napkin-menstruaion-blood-colors
Period blood – what it says about your health Your period blood color and consistency indicate what is happening in your body. Is your blood bright red…
CERULOPLASMIN- triple marker
Triple Marker Test A triple marker test is an important prenatal test that is performed to detect the presence of chromosomal…
Bloodtestalbumin
Albumin Test Albumin test or blood serum test is a liver function test that measures the amount of the protein…
Hibiscus: Nourish your beauty and health with these vibrant blooms Hibiscus is a trumpet shaped flower found abundantly in tropical countries. It has been historically used for its…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
Top reasons why you need to pay attention to your vitamin B6 intake Vitamin B6- An essential water-soluble vitamin. Its deficiency leads to physical changes such as sores & glossy tongue…
C-Reactive Protein Test A CRP or c-reactive protein blood test is an important diagnostic tool used to determine the risk of…
chloride test
Chloride Test A chloride test of the blood checks the level of chloride in body, an important factor governing the…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an enema could actually…
complement c4 test
Complement 4 (C4) Test The Complement 4 or C4 test measures the level of the protein in the bloodstream, and is primarily…
Vagus nerve: 7 health benefits of stimulating the “gut-brain” connection As a matter of fact, there are two vagus nerves namely the left and the right but is…
cystoscopy
Cystoscopy Cystoscopy is a procedure to check the health of the urethra and the bladder. The procedure is also…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
Miracle extract from the root of maca: 10 ways it can help you! Maca root has been used for years in herbal medicine. Today scientific research is unearthing fresh evidence in…
PROGESTERONE_test
Progesterone test The progesterone test is a blood test used to determine the level of hormone progesterone in the blood…
Spinach: The ultimate way to boost health with this green superfood! Spinach is a green superfood that ranks high in both taste and nutrition. Read more to discover how…
DHEA wrinkles
DHEA: Now get unbelievable age defiance with this wonder hormone! DHEA is known popularly as the age-defying hormone. This supplement is widely used to slow down aging and…
Ca 19.9 test
CA19.9 Test CA 19.9 is a cancer antigen that exists on the surface of cancer-causing cells. The levels of CA…
kshar sutra
Kshar sutra treatment for piles, fissures and fistula Read to know the benefits and side effects of kshar sutra to treat anal piles, fissures, and fistula…
deep vein thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis Deep vein thrombosis or DVT occurs when blood clots form in the deep veins of the body, mainly…
Keto diet healthy
Keto Diet: Did you know you could eat fats to burn fats? Keto diet - A wonder diet that lets you eat fats and lose weight too! Read on to…
Thyroid disorders
Thyroid Profile Thyroid profile is a panel of blood tests performed to check if an individual is suffering from any…
creatinine
Creatinine Test The level of creatinine in the blood is a significant indicator of the health of your kidneys. This…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…

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