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Diseases & Conditions


Pneumothorax is the presence of air between the lung and chest wall. It commonly happens when the chest wall or lung is punctured by trauma or a medical procedure, although it may result from underlying lung disease (spontaneous pneumothorax). Spontaneous pneumothorax may occur for no apparent reason.

Symptoms depend on the size of the pneumothorax and whether the air in the pleural space reaches a high pressure. Symptoms can include shortness of breath; a sudden, sharp chest pain; drop in blood pressure; and weak, yet rapid pulse.

How is pneumothorax treated?

A small pneumothorax may not require treatment beyond bedrest, although oxygen may be given. A large pneumothorax, especially if associated with shortness of breath, may be treated with needle aspiration of the air, the placement of a chest tube for drainage, or surgery (especially when necessary to prevent pneumothorax from recurring).