A pneumothorax is a collapsed lung. A pneumothorax occurs when air leaks into the space between your lung and chest wall. This air pushes on the outside of your lung and makes it collapse. Pneumothorax can be a complete lung collapse or a collapse of only a portion of the lung.
Symptoms usually include sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.
Pneumothorax can develop from a blunt trauma to the chest. Certain medical procedures may induce this condition. Patients with lung disease are more likely to have their lung collapse due to the damaged tissue. Small air blisters (blebs) can develop on the top of the lungs. These blebs sometimes burst — allowing air to leak into the space that surrounds the lungs. Pneumothorax can also develop for no obvious reason.
Anyone can develop a pneumothorax, however, generally, men are at higher risk than women. The type of pneumothorax caused by ruptured air blisters is most likely to occur in people between 20 and 40 years old, especially if the person is very tall and underweight.
People also put themselves at higher risk for developing a pneumothorax if they smoke.
Treatment for a pneumothorax usually involves inserting a needle or chest tube between the ribs to remove the excess air. Milford Vascular Institute can place chest tubes at our Outpatient Based Laboratory. A small pneumothorax may heal on its own.