Collapsed lung : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : Air around the lung, Air outside the lung, Pneumothorax, Spontaneous pneumothorax

Definition

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.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

A collapsed lung may result from chest trauma, such as gunshot or knife wounds, rib fracture, or after 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, called a bleb, ruptures, and the air leaks into the space around the lung.

Certain activities may lead to a collapsed lung. These include scuba diving, smoking marijuana or cigarettes, high altitude hiking, and flying.

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

Lung diseases such as COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, and whooping cough also increase your risk for a collapsed lung.

Pictures & Images

Lungs

The major features of the lungs include the bronchi, the bronchioles and the alveoli. The alveoli are the microscopic blood vessel-lined sacks in which oxygen and carbon dioxide gas are exchanged.

Aortic rupture, chest x-ray

Aortic rupture, chest x-ray

Aortic rupture (a tear in the aorta, which is the major artery coming from the heart) can be seen on a chest x-ray. In this case, it was caused by a traumatic perforation of the thoracic aorta. This is how the x-ray appears when the chest is full of blood (right-sided hemothorax) seen here as cloudiness on the left side of the picture.

Pneumothorax – chest x-ray

Pneumothorax - chest x-ray

Pneumothorax occurs when air leaks from inside of the lung to the space between the lung and the chest wall. The lung then collapses. The dark side of the chest (right side of the picture) is filled with air that is outside of the lung tissue.

Respiratory system

Respiratory system

Air is breathed in through the nasal passageways, travels through the trachea and bronchi to the lungs.

Chest tube insertion – series
Normal anatomy

Chest tube insertion - series : Normal anatomy

The pleural space is the space between the inner and outer lining of the lung. It is normally very thin, and lined only with a very small amount of fluid.


Review Date : 8/19/2009
Reviewed By : David A. Kaufman, MD, Section Chief, Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine, Bridgeport Hospital-Yale New Haven Health System, and Assistant Clinical Professor, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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