What is it?

Pneumothorax is a condition of air accumulation between the lung tissue and the chest wall, within a cavity called the pleural space. There are several types of pneumothorax. Iatrogenic or traumatic pneumothorax is the result of damage to the integrity of the pleura (the tissue surrounding the lung) due to blunt or penetrating chest injury or during a medical procedure. Spontaneous pneumothorax, on the other hand, occurs without such external provocation. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax is considered one that presents in the absence of an external factor, while secondary spontaneous pneumothorax is a complication of an underlying lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung malignancy). Pneumothorax can be a life-threatening condition that needs prompt attention.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Secondary Spontaneous Pneumothorax
- Postoperative Air Leak
- Spontaneous Tension Pneumothorax
- Iatrogenic Pneumothorax
- Postprocedural pneumothorax
- Chronic Pneumothorax
- Spontaneous Pneumothorax
- Primary Pneumothorax

Signs & symptoms

All types of pneumothorax cause similar symptoms, resulting from the air that accumulates around the lung pressing on it and causing its partial collapse.
The main symptoms of a pneumothorax are sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. In cases of large pneumothorax, there may be a sudden drop in blood pressure and a rapid pulse (condition called tension pneumothorax). It is a dangerous condition that results from impaired heart and lung function resulting from the pneumothorax.

Diagnosis

Pneumothorax is diagnosed according to symptoms, physical examination and a chest x-ray.

Treatment

The goal of pneumothorax treatment is to allow the lung to re-expand. This goal is achieved by draining the air trapped in the pleural space. Drainage is done using a needle or a chest tube. Sometimes surgery may be necessary to close the air leak. Cases of small pneumothorax causing only mild symptoms can be managed conservatively without draining the trapped air. A follow-up chest x-ray will be performed to make sure the trapped air was absorbed.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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