Partially Collapsed Lung

The lungs are the respiratory organs which take in oxygen and circulate it throughout the body via blood vessels. When air in lung escapes outside and fills the space between the lung and chest wall, a condition known as pneumothorax or a collapsed lung arises. This condition builds pressure on the lung and thus restricts the expansion, resulting in shortness of breath. A pneumothorax can either be simple pneumothorax or can be tension pneumothorax.

What Does Partially Collapsed Lung Mean?

Also called a simple pneumothorax, it is a condition where a part of the lung collapses. There is no cardiovascular dysfunction as the pressure built up is not that high. However, it limits the function of the lung and thus causes shortness of breath which eventually leads to inadequate supply of oxygen in the blood. Though the condition is not severe, if left unmonitored and untreated, it can build up enough pressure and affect the cardiovascular functions.

Besides this, tension pneumothorax, a much severe condition, may also happen. Here, the lung totally collapses, which means that either one or both lungs can completely cease to function in the right way. It can build up enough pressure and affect the cardiovascular system. The arteries and veins may get blocked, leading to a decreased blood and oxygen supply to the organs which will slowly stop functioning. Without immediate medical attention, this can result in death.

What Causes Partially Collapsed Lungs?

There are plenty of reasons for it, which can either be traumatic, non-traumatic or can be caused by an underlying medical condition. If the following causes are mild, your lungs may only be partially collapsed; or, they can be totally collapsed.

1. Non-Traumatic Causes

This is also known as spontaneous pneumothorax. Small air filled sacs called blebs which are present in lungs can cause air leaking outside of lungs and thus lead to pneumothorax. The shortness of breath and sudden, stabbing pain in the chest is an indication of spontaneous pneumothorax.

This condition is very common in thin, lanky people for their chest cavities and shapes of lungs make them prone to it. This can also be caused by smoking cigarettes.

2. Traumatic Causes

Blunt force trauma to the lungs, an accident, a bullet wound, etc. can puncture a hole in the lung and cause traumatic pneumothorax. During accidents, broken ribs can be dangerous as they encase the lungs. The sharp broken ends of the ribs can punch a hole through the lung. In some cases, trauma can be caused by medical treatment involving IV catheters and syringes, causing the leak of air into pleural space.

3. Underlying Diseases

Medical conditions involving unhealthy lungs like cystic fibrosis, asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease like chronic bronchitis can also cause the lung to collapse.

Watch the following video to know more about what collapsed lungs means:

What Are the Symptoms of Collapsed Lung?

Partially collapsed lung or simple pneumothorax can worsen and deteriorate into tension pneumothorax if left untreated. One must contact the healthcare provider without delay if the condition has occurred once before.

The symptoms include sharp stabbing pain in the chest region, shortness of breath and nasal flaring. If the pressure buildup is large, then the skin acquires a bluish tinge due to the lack of oxygen. Dizziness, rapid beating of heart and tightness in the chest indicate tension pneumothorax.

How to Deal With Collapsed Lung

No matter it is a partially collapsed lung or a totally collapsed lung, you should seek timely medical help to avoid severe consequences.

  1. Soothe lungby placing a soft pillow against the chest cavity if there are broken ribs. This will reduce the splinters and prevent damage to the lungs.
  2. Treat simple pneumothorax by removing the air in the chest cavity using a catheter. Inhaling 100% oxygen can cause spontaneous re-expansion of the collapsed lung. If this condition is persistent and happens very often, a surgical procedure called pleurodesis is to be performed.
  3. Treat tension pneumothorax by providing immediate medical attention. Inserting a needle attached to a syringe or chest tube directly into the chest cavity can relieve the pressure immediately. The definitive treatment involves placing the chest tube into the chest cavity through small incisions near the armpit. The tube might have to be left in for a few days before the person can recover completely.
  4. Do follow-up checks as they determine whether the person is fully functional or is still recovering. X-rays and physical examinations are performed repeatedly for a period of two weeks before the clearance is given.

After partially collapsed lung treatments, scarring of the pleura may occur. Symptoms include sharp, intermittent pain which lasts for a short duration. But people recovering from pneumothorax face no health issues in the long run. The same can't be said for people with spontaneous pneumothorax as there is a 50% chance that the condition is recurring. The only way to avoid it would be to quit smoking.

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