What are respiratory findings characteristic 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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Respiratory findings may include the following:

  • Respiratory distress (considered a universal finding) or respiratory arrest
  • Tachypnea (or bradypnea as a preterminal event)
  • Asymmetric lung expansion - A mediastinal and tracheal shift to the contralateral side can occur with a large tension pneumothorax
  • Distant or absent breath sounds - Unilaterally decreased or absent lung sounds is a common finding, but decreased air entry may be absent even in an advanced state of the disease
  • Lung sounds transmitted from the unaffected hemithorax are minimal with auscultation at the midaxillary line
  • Hyperresonance on percussion - This is a rare finding and may be absent even in an advanced state of the disease
  • Decreased tactile fremitus
  • Adventitious lung sounds (crackles, wheeze; an ipsilateral finding)

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