Collapsed lung is the common name of a condition medically called atelectasis. It occurs when for some reason all or part of a lung collapses, maybe due to compression of the lung tissue or obstruction of the air passages (bronchi). Having a collapsed lung can be a serious condition. Although some times a partially collapsed lung may slowly expand itself without treatment, in most cases this does not happen. A severely collapsed lung represents a very dangerous condition and can be life-threatening, requiring emergency medical actions.
Causes Of Collapsed Lung A collapsed lung can be the result of one or more of these causes: prolonged bed rest, heavy sedation, obesity (the patient’s own weight compresses the chest and obstructs the airway), lung compression caused by fluid around the lung (a phenomenon known as pleural effusion), lung compression caused by air in the pleural space (pneumothorax), the presence of a foreign object in the airway (mostly seen in children, who tend to take small items like marbles, toy car wheels and others to their mouth), tumors that obstruct the airway, etc. Symptoms Of Collapsed Lung Patients suffering from a partially collapsed lung can show shortness of breath, acute chest pain on one side (especially when breathing in), a persistent cough (usually accompanied by pain), fever, sputum (which can be yellow, green or gray) and also back pain.
People with all or a high part of a lung compromised can also show small traces of blood in cough sputum. When a doctor observes the presence of one or more of the above symptoms and suspects a case of collapsed lung, he can confirm his diagnosis by ordering a chest X-ray and a bronchoscopy. Treatment Of Collapsed Lung Treatment for collapsed lung can vary depending on the factor causing the compression. In case of a pneumothorax, a tube may be placed in the side of the patient’s chest to drain out the air surrounding the lung.
Removing the air outside the collapsed lung will allow its expansion. Pain killer medications will be necessary at this point to ensure the patient can try to breath as deep as possible without pain, letting more air into his compressed lung. After drainage, oxygen may be supplied to the patient. Cough medicine will help dissolve any thick mucus that may be obstructing the lung, and antibiotics will be helpful in avoiding any infections (a sputum sample sent to the lab will show any infection focus). In some cases surgery may be needed to correct the affected lung tendency to collapse. Prevention Of Collapsed Lung Preventing a collapsed lung (atelectasis) consists on avoiding its causes. More specifically, exercise and weight loss can fight obesity, being a non-smoker can avoid several airway obstructions and, in general, keeping a healthy lifestyle can ensure your lungs (and your whole body) are strong enough to avoid collapse.