Pneumothorax

Definition

Pneumothorax is a condition in which air collects in the space between the lungs and the chest wall. This air pocket puts pressure on the lung and can collapse a portion of the lung.

Causes

The chest cavity is normally a sealed chamber. Air can leak into the chamber through damaged lung tissue, chest wall, or the diaphragm (a muscle that separates the abdominal and chest cavity). The air can eventually become large enough to collapse a section of lung. Pneumothorax may be named according to its cause or how it acts, for example:
  • Primary spontaneous pneumothorax—No known cause, but genetics may play a role.
  • Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax—Caused by air leaks from damaged lung tissue. Tissue is often weakened from lung disease, injury, or mechanical ventilation.
  • Tension pneumothorax—Caused by trauma to the lungs and/or chest cavity (ribs and muscles). This is the most serious type because the collapse is more rapid and involves a larger amount of lung. It may affect the heart's ability to pump blood.
  • Catamenial pneumothorax (women only)—caused by small holes in the diaphragm muscle. Occurs within 72 hours of start or end of menstrual cycle and most often associated with endometriosis.
Rib Fractures With Pneumothorax
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Risk Factors

Primary spontaneous pneumothorax is more common in tall, thin young men, generally from teenagers up to the age of 30. Other factors that may increase your chance of primary spontaneous pneumothorax include smoking or having a genetic abnormality.Weakened lung tissue increases your risk of secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. Conditions that can cause weak lung tissue include:Factors that may increase your chance of tension pneumothorax include:
  • Penetrating or blunt force trauma to the chest
  • Having a medical or surgical procedure
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Smoking

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