Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Also known as: collapsed lung, PSP.

What is spontaneous pneumothorax?

Pneumothorax is defined as the sudden appearance of air in the chest outside of a lung (between the lung and the chest wall). It may be “spontaneous” (primary/idiopathic - no lung cause found) or as a complication of an underlying acute or chronic lung disorder (“secondary”). Iatrogenic pneumothorax occurs as result of a surgical procedure or mechanical ventilation. The prognosis is usually good though it can recur (10-30%).

What causes spontaneous pneumothorax?

Usually no cause can be found, however risk factors include tall thin adolescent boys, smoking, high altitude flying, scuba diving and abnormalities of the tissue that supports and nourishes all the other tissues/organs in the body (connective tissue diseases). A spontaneous pneumothorax results from a bleb of air in the lung rupturing and tracking into the pleural space between lung and chest wall causing pressure on the lung and its collapse.

What are the symptoms of spontaneous pneumothorax?

A small pneumothorax may be asymptomatic, or life threatening from progressive lung collapse with shortness of breath after a sharp/stabbing chest pain.

What are spontaneous pneumothorax care options?

In general, for a small pneumothorax, oxygen may be administered for a few hours (helps diminish the size of the pneumothorax) or a needle or chest tube is inserted into the pneumothorax to remove the air and relieve the pressure (enabling the collapsed lung to re-expand).

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: September 09, 2019 03:30 PM