What is a collapsed lung?

A collapsed lung is the deflation of some or all of a lung, resulting in difficulty breathing, chest pain, and low oxygen in the blood (hypoxia). Collapsed lung can refer to a pneumothorax, an accumulation of air in the chest that prevents the lungs from expanding fully, or to atelectasis, deflation of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) within the lungs.

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More specifically, a pneumothorax begins as a hole in the lung, which allows air to escape from inside the lung and fills in the chest cavity outside the lung. Air pressure from outside the lung causes its collapse. Atelectasis is often caused by a pneumothorax, but it can be a complication of many respiratory problems and conditions.

A collapsed lung most often occurs in hospitalized patients undergoing certain procedures and people who experience chest trauma. Certain lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and cystic fibrosis, increase the risk of a collapsed lung, as does participation in certain activities, such as scuba diving and high-altitude climbing or hiking.

The characteristic symptom of a collapsed lung from pneumothorax is severe, sharp chest pain and difficulty breathing. Atelectasis symptoms include possible chest pain or pressure, cough, and difficulty breathing. Treatment for a collapsed lung includes procedures to re-inflate the affected lung, ease breathing, and increase oxygenation. In rare cases, surgery is required to repair the damaged lung. Remembering to take deep breaths every hour, if you are bedridden or have pain with breathing, can prevent atelectasis.

Left untreated, a collapsed lung can lead to serious symptoms. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe difficulty breathing, bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails, and severe sharp chest pain.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for a collapsed lung but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a collapsed lung?

A collapsed lung is a deflation of the lungs, which affects normal breathing and leads to chest pain. Symptoms vary depending on whether the lung collapse is due to air between the chest wall and lungs (pneumothorax) or deflation of the small air sacs (alveoli) within the lungs (atelectasis). Symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about collapsed lungsymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a collapsed lung?

A collapsed lung is the deflation of some or all of a lung, resulting in difficulty breathing, chest pain, and low oxygen in the blood (hypoxia). Collapsed lung can refer to pneumothorax, an accumulation of air in the chest, which prevents the lungs from expanding fully, or atelectasis, a deflation of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) within the lungs.... Read more about collapsed lungcauses

TREATMENTS

How is a collapsed lung treated?

Treatment for a collapsed lung begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The goal of treatment for a collapsed lung is to re-inflate the collapsed lung to ease breathing and improve oxygenation. Treatment depends on the severity of the collapsed lung and the cause.... Read more about collapsed lungtreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration


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