A collapsed lung
(pneumothorax) is a buildup of air in the space between the lung and the chest
wall (pleural space). As the amount of air in this space increases, the
pressure against the lung causes the lung to collapse. This prevents your lung
from expanding properly when you try to breathe in, causing shortness of breath
and chest pain.
A pneumothorax may become life-threatening if
the pressure in your chest prevents the lungs from getting enough oxygen into
What causes a pneumothorax?
A pneumothorax is
usually caused by an injury to the chest, such as a broken rib or puncture
wound. It may also occur suddenly without an injury.
pneumothorax may only require observation by your
doctor; in some cases, oxygen may be given (through a mask). More
serious cases are treated by inserting a needle or a chest tube into the chest
cavity. Both of these procedures relieve the pressure on the lung and allow it
Surgery may be needed if the original treatment does
not work or if the pneumothorax returns.
What are the chances that a pneumothorax will return?
If you have had one pneumothorax, you have an increased risk for another.
Nearly all recurrences happen within 2 years of the first pneumothorax. If you
smoke, quitting smoking can reduce your risk of another pneumothorax.
Other Places To Get Help
American Lung Association
1301 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) to speak with a lung professional (202) 785-3355
The American Lung Association provides programs of
education, community service, and advocacy. Some of the topics available
include asthma, tobacco control, emphysema, infectious disease, asbestos, carbon monoxide, radon,
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Diseases affecting the heart and circulation, such as heart
attacks, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, and
heart problems present at birth (congenital heart diseases).
Diseases that affect the lungs, such as asthma, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, sleep apnea, and
Diseases that affect the blood, such as anemia,
hemochromatosis, hemophilia, thalassemia, and von Willebrand disease.
Primary Medical Reviewer
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.