A pneumothorax (collapsed lung) results from a buildup of air in
the space between the lung and the chest wall (pleural space). This prevents
the lung from expanding properly when the person tries to breathe in, causing
shortness of breath and chest pain.
A pneumothorax is usually caused by an injury to the chest, such as
a broken rib or a puncture wound. It may also occur suddenly without an injury
(spontaneous pneumothorax). Spontaneous pneumothorax can result from damage to
the lungs caused by conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
(COPD), asthma, cystic fibrosis, and pneumonia. Spontaneous pneumothorax can
also occur in people who don't have lung disease.
Symptoms of pneumothorax often include:
Shortness of breath (dyspnea), which may be
mild to severe, depending on how much of the lung is
Sudden, severe, and sharp chest pain on the same side as
the collapsed lung.
A small pneumothorax may improve without treatment. But a more
serious pneumothorax usually is treated by inserting a needle or a chest tube
into the chest cavity. This relieves the pressure on the lung and allows it to
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
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