Pneumothorax - Spontaneous Pneumothorax
Collapse of part or all of a lung caused by pressure from free air in the chest between the two layers of the pleura (thin membranes that cover the lung). Peak incidence is in males between ages 20 to 40.
Pneumothorax can occur for no apparent reason, called a spontaneous pneumothorax, or can be caused by injury. The most serious type is a tension pneumothorax, where the chest cavity fills with air and the extreme pressure causes the lung to collapse completely.
Air leaks occur when the alveoli (tiny air sacs) become over distended and burst. Pressure of the air delivered by mechanical ventilators (breathing machines) is the most common cause. Meconium aspiration (inhalation of the first stools passed in utero) can also trap air and lead to over distention (the lungs expand too much) and air leaks. Air leaks often occur in the first 24 to 36 hours when lung disease is at its peak. Some otherwise healthy babies can develop a "spontaneous" air leak that does not cause symptoms or distress.
Signs and symptoms
The following symptoms vary according to the degree of lung collapse and extent of underlying lung disease. Symptoms may be less acute if the pneumothorax develops slowly:
To diagnose a pneumothorax, a doctor will check for normal breathing sounds by listening to the patient's chest with a stethoscope. He or she will also order a chest x-ray, which will show any air pocket in the chest cavity and the condition of the lung. If tension pneumothorax is suspected, an electrocardiogram (ECG) lets the doctor see the rate and rhythm of the heart. A test called an arterial blood gas is also used to check a blood sample for oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Medical Treatment- Hospitalization and treatment with special equipment following minor surgery may be necessary.
Medication usually is not necessary. However, you may use non-prescription drugs such as acetaminophen for minor pain. For severe pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain relievers.
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