What is pneumothorax?

6 March 2015
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6 March 2015, Comments: 0

A pneumothorax or a collapsed lung basically occurs once there is a build-up of air in the space between the lungs and rib cage which is called the pleural space. This condition can cause a variety of symptoms that can cause discomfort to the individual. If you want to readily manage the symptoms, you can enroll in a first aid course today.


When it comes to pneumothorax, the symptoms include piercing chest which is aggravated when the individual breathes deeply. The individual will feel chest tightness and shortness of breath. A dry cough can be experienced as well. In severe cases, there is fatigue, rapid heart rate and bluish tint to the skin and lips.


The individual will feel chest tightness and shortness of breath.

The severity of the symptoms usually depends on how much air has entered the pleural space. In very severe cases, the condition is called as tension pneumothorax. In such cases, the air which entered could not escape at all and more air continues to enter with every breath of the individual, resulting to symptoms that rapidly worsen.

Overview on pneumothorax

Pneumothorax develops once there is a build-up of air in the space between the lungs and the rib cage which is called as the pleural space. This will place pressure on the lungs so that it cannot expand as much as normally. This usually occurs on one side at a time. It is important to note that there are two types:

  • Traumatic pneumothorax occurs as a result of a traumatic injury where air from outside the body enters this space. This can occur during injuries such as gunshot wounds, stab wounds or broken ribs. In addition, it can also occur after chest surgery.
  • Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs for no apparent reason. The air sac on the lung surface called bulla bursts. The bulla is likely to burst during strenuous exercise or certain activities including flying, scuba diving or hiking at high altitudes. Even respiratory diseases such as COPD and asthma can also increase the risk.

Treatment of pneumothorax

An X-ray of the lungs is taken to confirm a diagnosis and then the appropriate treatment is started which usually depends on the severity of the condition. Minor cases of pneumothorax typically heal in just a few days. The gap in which the air entered the space heals while the body absorbs the excess air. In most cases, additional oxygen might be required.

In severe cases, it would require the placement of a chest drain that is inserted into the pleural space to allow the air to disband. This is kept in place for a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the healing time of the injury. In repeated cases, a procedure called pleurodesis which utilizes a special chemical that sticks the two layers of lung lining together, thus air could not get in between them.

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