What is 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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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). The clinical results are dependent on the degree of collapse of the lung on the affected side. Pneumothorax can impair oxygenation and/or ventilation. 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.

Among the topics this article will discuss are several areas of new information in the medical literature: (1) studies comparing aspiration and tube drainage for treatment of primary spontaneous pneumothorax, (2) long-term follow-up of surgical treatment of pneumothorax, (3) assessment of the impact of pleurodesis on transplantation outcomes in patients with lymphangiomyomatosis, (4) demonstrated utility of ultrasonography in the bedside diagnosis of iatrogenic pneumothorax, and (5) inability of ultrasonography to distinguish between intrapulmonary bullae and pneumothorax.

See also Restoring Air-Free Pleural Space in Pneumothorax.

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