What is the role of imaging 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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When pneumothorax is suspected, confirmation by chest radiography affords additional information beyond confirmation, such as the extent of pneumothorax, potential causes, a baseline study from which to go forward, and assistance with the therapeutic plan.

The following radiologic studies may be used to evaluate suspected pneumothorax:

  • Chest radiography: Anteroposterior and/or lateral decubitus films
  • Contrast-enhanced esophagography: If emesis/retching is the precipitating event
  • Chest computed tomography scanning: Most reliable imaging study for diagnosis of pneumothorax but not recommended for routine use in pneumothorax
  • Chest ultrasonography

See Workup for more detail.

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