Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Spontaneous pneumothorax is a sudden collection of air or gas in the chest that causes the lung to collapse in the absence of a traumatic injury to the chest or lung.  Usually, a distinction is made between a spontaneous (primary) pneumothorax, and secondary (complicated) pneumothorax.

SPONTANEOUS (PRIMARY) PNEUMOTHORAX Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs in individuals with no known lung disease.  It affects close to 9,000 persons in the United States each year- most often among tall, thin men between 20 and 40 years old.  The cause of this type of pneumothorax is the rupture of a bleb or cyst in the lung.

Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain on affected side
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Cough
  • Abnormal breathing movement
  • Rapid respiratory rate

    Spontaneous pneumothorax is diagnosed by chest radiographs. The way the condition is treated is dependant on its size and course.  The objective of treatment is to remove the air from the pleural space, allowing the lung to reexpand.  A small pneumothorax will resolve on its own in 1 to 2 weeks.  Larger pneumothoraxes require either needle aspiration or a chest tube.  Hospitalization is required for chest tube management as the reexpansion of the lung may take several days with the chest tube left in place.  Surgery may be performed for a repeated episode to prevent recurrence.

    source: American Lung Association

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