Atelectasis

(Collapsed Lung)

Definition

Atelectasis is a collapse of the air sacs in the lungs called alveoli. It may occur in a portion of the lung, or in the entire lung. Normally, oxygen enters the body through the lungs and is exchanged with carbon dioxide in the alveoli. The lungs expand and contract to create the exchange of these gases.Atelectasis is not a disease, but a condition or sign that results from disease or abnormalities in the lungs.
The Lungs (Cut-away View)
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Causes

Atelectasis is caused by a:
  • Blockage of the airway
  • Reduced amount of surfactant, a liquid that keeps the lungs expanded
Blockage may be caused by:
  • Infection
  • Tumors, mucus, or a foreign object in the lungs
  • Compression, resulting from emphysema , an enlarged heart, or a tumor
  • Scarring that blocks the airway as a result of radiation therapy , frequent infections, or disease
  • Pneumothorax —leakage of air into the space surrounding the lungs
Reduced amounts of surfactant may be caused by:
  • Lung immaturity in premature babies
  • Fluid build up
  • Failure to take deep breaths
  • Not coughing, which keeps the airway clear

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance for atelectasis include:
  • Premature birth if lungs are not fully developed
  • Anesthesia
  • Restricted chest movement, due to bone or muscle problems, or recent abdominal surgery
  • Injuries
  • Prolonged bed rest with few changes in position
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Lung diseases, such as asthma or lung cancer
  • Weakened respiratory muscles
  • Smoking
  • Heart failure
  • Obesity
  • Conditions that limit physical activity, such as a stroke , spinal cord injury, heart problems, trauma , or severe illness

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