Pneumothorax is defined as the accumulation of air or gas in the space between the lung and the chest wall. Pneumothorax occurs because of a hole that develops in the lung, which allows air to escape in the space around the lung, causing the lung to partially or completely collapse. People who have COPD are at greater risk for pneumothorax because the structure of their lungs is weak and vulnerable to the spontaneous development of these types of holes.
Air around the lung; Air outside the lung
Causes of pneumothorax include the following:
In some instances, the cause of pneumothorax may be unable to be determined.
- Sudden, sharp chest pain that gets worse by coughing or a taking a deep breath
- Chest Tightness
- Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
- Cyanosis caused by lack of oxygen
Symptoms of pneumothorax may develop during rest, sleep, or while awake. Other symptoms that may occur include nasal flaring, anxiety or low blood pressure (hypotension).
Upon physical examination, pneumothorax will reveal decreased or absent breath sounds on the affected side of the lung when listening through a stethoscope. In addition, the chest wall, which normally rises equally on both sides upon inhalation, may show an inability to rise on the affected side.
Tests that support a diagnosis of pneumothorax include:
Sometimes, smaller pneumothoraces go away on their own. In the event of a large pneumothorax, a chest tube must be inserted between the ribs into the space between the lung and the chest wall to help remove the air and reinflate the lung. The chest tube stays in place for several days, while the patient recovers in the hospital. In rare cases, surgery is required to prevent future occurrences.
There is no way to stop a pneumothorax from happening but you can reduce your risk by not smoking.
The odds of having another pneumothorax if you have already had one is up to 50%. Once treatment has been successful, there are usually no long-term complications.
Complications of pneumothorax include:
- Recurrent pneumothorax
- Tension pneumothorax
When to Contact a Health Care Professional
Call your healthcare provider if you develop any symptoms of pneumothorax, especially if you have had the condition in the past.
For more information about pneumothorax, contact your healthcare provider.