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A collapsed lung (pneumothorax) is a buildup of air in the space between the lung and the chest wall. The pressure of the air against the lung makes the lung collapse. Your lung cannot fully expand when you inhale. This causes shortness of breath and chest pain.
A collapsed lung is usually caused by an injury to the chest. It may also occur suddenly because of a lung illness, such as emphysema or lung fibrosis. A lung may collapse after lung surgery or another medical procedure. Sometimes it happens for no known reason.
Treatment can depend on the cause and severity of the collapsed lung. Treatment can also depend on whether the problem has returned. Some people stay in the hospital for treatment. In some cases, oxygen may be given (through a mask). It may heal with rest, but your doctor will need to check you. It can take several days for the lung to expand again. Your doctor may have drained the excess air from your chest with a needle or tube. Sometimes surgery is done to help keep the lung inflated.
The doctor will want to keep track of your progress. So you will need a follow-up exam to check your lungs. You may need further treatment if you are not getting better.
A collapsed lung may happen again. Watch for symptoms. If you have shortness of breath or chest pain, get medical treatment right away.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: November 14, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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