How is pneumothorax defined?

Updated: Apr 28, 2020
  • Author: Brian J Daley, MD, MBA, FACS, FCCP, CNSC; Chief Editor: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM  more...
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Answer

Pneumothorax is defined as the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity (ie, the potential space between the visceral and parietal pleura of the lung), which can impair oxygenation and/or ventilation. The clinical results are dependent on the degree of collapse of the lung on the affected side. If the pneumothorax is significant, it can cause a shift of the mediastinum and compromise hemodynamic stability. Air can enter the intrapleural space through a communication from the chest wall (ie, trauma) or through the lung parenchyma across the visceral pleura. See the image below.

Radiograph of a patient with a complete right-side Radiograph of a patient with a complete right-sided pneumothorax due to a stab wound.

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