Collapsed lung: What are the general signs?

3 October 2017
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3 October 2017, Comments: 0

A collapsed lung or pneumothorax develops if air enters the space amidst the lungs and the chest wall. The air leaks from the lung and produces pressure against it. Take note that this pressure causes the collapse of the lung. The lung might partly or fully collapse which is based on the manner of air leakage and amount of pressure placed on the lung.

What are the indications?

A collapsed lung usually causes symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain that is abrupt and sharp – this pain arises on the side of the chest of the lung that has collapsed and does not radiate to the middle of the chest
  • Shortness of breath – its severity is based on the extent of the collapse
  • Chest tightness


    Chest pain that is abrupt and sharp is an indication of the injury.

  • Rapid heart rate

It is important to note that the severity of the symptoms of a collapsed lung is based on whether the lung was partly or fully collapsed. In case there is only a minor amount of air amidst the lung and chest wall, the symptoms might be few.

Remember that even if there is only a small amount of air, slight chest pain and shortness of breath might occur. The shortness of breath usually improves over time even if there are no changes in the size of the collapse in the lung.

Are there any complications?

In one form of collapsed lung, specifically the tension type, complications that might arise include hypoxemia or low blood oxygen levels which can disrupt with the basic functioning of the body and can be dangerous.

Cardiac arrest is another possible complication of this form of collapsed lung. In addition, respiratory failure and even shock can occur.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a collapsed lung is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this lung injury by taking a standard first aid course with Toronto First Aid.

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