Authored by Revere Health

Collapsed Lung

December 16, 2016 | Pulmonology

Pulmonology: Collapsed Lung

In the medical field, sudden or extreme conditions are some of the toughest to deal with. Things like heart attacks, strokes and certain physical traumas have some of the highest fatality rates of major conditions, mainly because they’re so abrupt and speed of treatment is a huge factor in survival.

Another condition like this is a collapsed lung, also known as a pneumothorax. Collapsed lungs usually occur in only part of the lung, but sometimes it can affect the entire lung. A collapsed lung is just what it sounds like, and it can cause major breathing issues and even death in extreme cases.

Here are a few of the basic symptoms, causes and treatments for collapsed lungs.

What is a Collapsed Lung?

The roots of a pneumothorax take place before the lung itself actually collapses. Air leaks into the area between the lung and the wall of the chest, and begins to push on your lung.

When the pressure becomes great enough, the lung collapses. It’s usually only part of the long that collapses, but in some cases the entire lung can be affected.

Causes and Risk Factors

There are cases of collapsed lungs where the cause of the air entering the chest is unknown. In most situations, though, they’re caused directly by few specific events:

  • Major chest injury: Especially if it involves anything sharp penetrating your chest, but collapsed lungs can happen even without this. These injuries can come from a major trauma, but they also happen more than you’d think during other surgical procedures.
  • Ventilator: Some people need a ventilator to help them breathe, but these can be faulty and sometimes create bad air pressure in the chest.
  • Lung damage: People who have had lung diseases in the past are at higher risk.
  • Air blisters: These can grow on the top of the lungs, and then burst and cause air to leak into the chest.

There are several other areas that can put a person at extra risk of a collapsed lung, but they aren’t known as direct causes:

  • Age – people between ages 20 and 40 are at the highest risk
  • Gender – men are more likely to have collapsed lungs
  • Genetics
  • Lung disease
  • Smoking
  • Ventilator
  • Prior collapsed lung

Diagnosis and Treatment

In most cases, doctors diagnose collapsed lungs using a basic X-ray of the chest. Sometimes a doctor will order a CT scan, which is essentially several X-rays from different directions, to get more detail. Collapsed lungs are not difficult for these scans to pick up, and are almost always obvious to the doctor.

Once your doctor has diagnosed a collapsed lung, treatment options are often geared toward removing the pressure on the lung and letting it get back to normal. In some minor cases, your doctor won’t prescribe any specific treatment if he or she expects the lung to re-fill on its own, and you’ll be carefully monitored over the next few weeks.

In other cases, a couple procedures are pretty common:

  • Needle or chest tube: Used to remove the bad air from the chest, usually using a needle or a chest tube with a suction device
  • Chest surgery: Usually only for cases where a needle or chest tube doesn’t work

People who have had a collapsed lung are at greater risk to have another one in the future. So, even for minor cases, your doctor will recommend check-ups every now and then to monitor your lungs. If you’ve had a collapsed lung and you notice even minor breathing symptoms, contact your doctor right away.


Revere Health Pulmonology offers specialized treatment options for asthma, COPD, chronic cough and shortness of breath.





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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.