Pneumothorax

Pneumothorax (or a 'collapsed lung') occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall.

Overview

Pneumothorax (or a 'collapsed lung') occurs when air leaks into the space between the lungs and chest wall. This cavity is formed by the two layers of the sac surrounding each lung (the 'pleura'). The lung can no longer expand and collapses partially or completely. Symptoms include sudden chest pain and shortness of breath. It’s a good idea to consult a doctor immediately.

Symptoms

Main symptoms

Other symptoms

  • Tickly cough
  • Rapid breathing
  • Bluish lips
  • Anxiety, panic

Complications

  • Accumulation of blood or pus in the pleural space between the lung and chest wall
  • In the worst case, this can lead to cardiovascular failure

Causes and treatment

Causes

The two layers of the pleura cover the lung and promote smooth inhalation and exhalation. The lung collapses if air enters the cavity between these two layers. It may be caused by:

  • Chest injuries (e.g. after a rib fracture)
  • Complications of a medical procedure
  • Spontaneous pneumothorax without external trauma (e.g. due to COPD or asthma but also without a recognisable cause)

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • X-ray
Possible therapies
  • Painkillers
  • Draining of the excess air by inserting a plastic tube between the layers of the pleura
  • Surgery (very rarely)

What can I do myself?

When to see a doctor?

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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