St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Collapsed lung

    Air around the lung; Air outside the lung; Pneumothorax; Spontaneous pneumothorax

    A collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, is the collection of air in the space around the lungs. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath.

    Causes

    A collapsed lung occurs when air escapes from the lung and fills up the space outside of the lung, inside the chest. It may be caused by a gunshot or knife wound to the chest, rib fracture, or certain medical procedures.

    In some cases, a collapsed lung occurs without any cause. This is called a spontaneous pneumothorax. A small area in the lung that is filled with air (bleb) can break open, sending air into the space around the lung.

    Tall, thin people and smokers are more likely to have a collapsed lung.

    The following lung diseases also increase your risk for a collapsed lung:

    • Asthma
    • COPD
    • Cystic fibrosis
    • Tuberculosis
    • Whooping cough

    Symptoms

    Common symptoms of a collapsed lung include:

    • Sharp chest pain, made worse by a deep breath or a cough
    • Shortness of breath

    A larger pneumothorax will cause more severe symptoms, including:

    • Bluish color of the skin caused by lack of oxygen
    • Chest tightness
    • Easy fatigue
    • Rapid heart rate

    Other symptoms that can occur with a collapsed lung include:

    • Nasal flaring

    Exams and Tests

    There are decreased or no breath sounds on the affected side when heard through a stethoscope. You may have low blood pressure.

    Tests include:

    • Arterial blood gases
    • Chest x-ray

    Treatment

    A small pneumothorax may go away on its own. You may only need oxygen and rest.

    The health care provider may use a needle to pull the extra air out from around the lung so it can expand more fully. You may be allowed to go home if you live near the hospital.

    If you have a large pneumothorax, a chest tube will be placed between the ribs into the space around the lungs to help drain the air and allow the lung to re-expand.

    The chest tube can be left in place for several days. You may need to stay in the hospital. However, you may be able to go home if a small chest tube is used.

    Some patients with a collapsed lung need extra oxygen.

    Lung surgery may be needed to treat your pneumothorax or to prevent future episodes. The area where the leak occurred may be repaired. Sometimes, a special chemical is placed into the area of the collapsed lung. This chemical causes a scar to form. This procedure is called pleurodesis.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    If you have a collapsed lung, you are more likely to have another one in the future if you:

    • Are tall and thin
    • Continue to smoke
    • Have had two collapsed lungs in the past

    How well you do after having a collapsed lung depends on what caused it.

    Possible Complications

    • Another collapsed lung in the future
    • Shock

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of a collapsed lung, especially if you have had one before.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent a collapsed lung, but you can decrease your risk by not smoking.

    References

    Light RW, Lee GY. Pneumothorax, chylothorax, hemothorax, and fibrothorax. In: Mason RJ, Murray JF, Broaddus VC, Nadel JA, eds. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2005:chap 69.

    Maskell N; British Thoracic Society Pleural Disease Guideline Group. British Thoracic Society Pleural Disease Guidelines--2010 update. Thorax. 2010;65:667-669.

    BACK TO TOP

    • Lungs

      illustration

    • Aortic rupture, chest X-...

      illustration

    • Pneumothorax - chest X-r...

      illustration

    • Respiratory system

      illustration

    • Chest tube insertion - s...

      Presentation

    • Pneumothorax - series

      Presentation

      • Lungs

        illustration

      • Aortic rupture, chest X-...

        illustration

      • Pneumothorax - chest X-r...

        illustration

      • Respiratory system

        illustration

      • Chest tube insertion - s...

        Presentation

      • Pneumothorax - series

        Presentation

      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Collapsed lung

          Review Date: 7/9/2012

          Reviewed By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine UMDNJ-NJMS, Attending Physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
          adam.com

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          History
          Mission
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs
          Assessment

          Newsroom
          Services
          Brain & Spine
          Cancer
          Heart
          Maternity
          Orthopedics
          Pulmonary
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          mystlukes
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Health Risk Assessments
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Volunteer
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          Careers
          Careers
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile