What is the role of lab studies in the diagnosis of pneumothorax?

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

Although laboratory and imaging studies help determine a diagnosis, tension pneumothorax primarily is a clinical diagnosis based on patient presentation. Suspicion of tension pneumothorax, especially in late stages, mandates immediate treatment and does not require potentially prolonged diagnostic studies.

Arterial blood gas (ABG) studies measure the degrees of acidemia, hypercarbia, and hypoxemia, the occurrence of which depends on the extent of cardiopulmonary compromise at the time of collection. ABG analysis does not replace physical diagnosis, nor should treatment be delayed while awaiting results if symptomatic pneumothorax is suspected. However, ABG analysis may be useful in evaluating hypoxia and hypercarbia and respiratory acidosis.


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