Pneumothorax is more commonly known as a collapsed lung. It occurs when air from the lung leaks into the area between the lung and the wall of the chest cavity (rib cage). This air puts pressure on the outside of the lung, so it cannot expand normally, leading to difficulty breathing. This situation can be life threatening and requires immediate treatment.
The Lung Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) provides specialized diagnostic services and offers proven treatments for pneumothorax. Our board-certified surgeons are experts in the latest minimally invasive thoracoscopic surgical techniques using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), a safe and effective alternative to open surgery.
There are several known causes of pneumothorax:
If you have these symptoms, you should seek immediate attention either at your doctor’s office or in an emergency room where you will likely have a thoracic surgery consultation.
There are clear warning signs of a collapsed lung:
If the leak in the lung is a large one, more severe symptoms can occur:
After taking your medical history and performing a careful physical examination, your Lung Center team may order the following tests to confirm a pneumothorax:
Depending on the severity of your pneumothorax, there are several treatment options:
When you become a patient of The Lung Center, you will meet many members of the team who specialize in pneumothorax. You will receive a thorough diagnostic evaluation and careful monitoring.
If you have had a pneumothorax in the past that was treated without surgery, it is recommended that you do not participate in sports that involve changes in barometric pressure (scuba diving, mountain climbing, sky diving). If you would like to participate in these sports, but have had a pneumothorax in the past, specialists at The Lung Center can assess your risk for participating in such sports.
Pneumothorax patients benefit from the wide range of specialists at the Lung Center, including pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, cardiovascular medicine physicians and thoracic imaging experts. This collaboration ensures comprehensive evaluation and treatment. If your medical team discovers an underlying illness or concern, you will be referred to a BWH physician for an expert evaluation.
Any surgery recommended will be performed by an experienced, board-certified thoracic surgeon, in collaboration with a pulmonologist and anesthesiologist, as well as nurses and physicians, all of whom are experts in taking care of patients with pneumothorax.
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