Medical Encyclopedia


Medical Encyclopedia

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Contents of this page:


Aortic rupture, chest X-ray
Aortic rupture, chest X-ray
Pneumothorax - chest X-ray
Pneumothorax - chest X-ray
Respiratory system
Respiratory system
Chest tube insertion - series
Chest tube insertion - series
Pneumothorax - series
Pneumothorax - series

Alternative Names    Return to top

Air around the lung; Air outside the lung

Definition    Return to top

Pneumothorax is the collection of air or gas in the space around the lungs.

Causes    Return to top

Pneumothorax may result from chest trauma, excess pressure on the lungs, or a lung disease such as COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, or whooping cough. In some cases, the cause is unclear.

See also:

Symptoms    Return to top

Note: Symptoms may begin during rest or sleep.

Other symptoms that can occur with this disease:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

There are decreased or no breath sounds on the affected side when heard through a stethoscope.

Tests include:

Treatment    Return to top

Small pneumothoraces may go away on their own.

For larger pneumothoraces, the air must be removed from around the lung. A chest tube placed between the ribs into the space around the lungs helps drain the air and allows the lung to re-expand. The chest tube can be left in place for several days. The person must stay in the hospital while the chest tube is in place.

Some people need extra oxygen to help air around the lung be reabsorbed more quickly. Surgery may be needed to prevent future episodes.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Up to 50% of patients who have a pneumothorax will have another, but there are no long-term complications after successful treatment.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of pneumothorax, especially if you have had this condition before.

Prevention    Return to top

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

References    Return to top

Baumann MH, Strange C, Heffner JE, Light R, Kirby TJ, Klein J, et al. Management of spontaneous pneumothorax. Chest. February 2001;199:590-602.

Murray J, Nadel J. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2000.

Marx J. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2002.

Update Date: 8/10/2007

Updated by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, Department of Veteran Affairs, VA System, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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