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Collapsed Lung

The lungs normally expand and contract with air much like a balloon. Sometimes a weakness develops in the lung and essentially pops or bursts, allowing air to escape into the chest between the lung and the rib cage. The pressure of this air on the lungs can cause a complete or partial collapsed lung, also known as a spontaneous pneumothorax.

This potentially life-threatening condition may develop for a variety of reasons. Primary collapsed lung often occurs in healthy young individuals (ages 20 to 40) without any obvious signs of lung disease. Sometimes these patients, though, have a strong family history of collapsed lung. Secondary pneumothorax tends to affect people with underlying health issues affecting the lungs such as chronic smoking, COPD or cystic fibrosis.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Collapsed Lung

Trouble breathing and chest pain are two major signs you may have a collapsed lung. But since they are also symptoms of many other health conditions, you should seek immediate medical attention if these problems suddenly appear and/or worsen.

Your NorthShore thoracic surgeon may require you undergo several imaging tests to accurately diagnosis your condition, including:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT Scan 
  • Lung Sonography
  • Thoracic Ultrasound

Surgical Treatment Options for Collapsed Lung

Depending on how much of your lung has collapsed, surgery may be needed to repair the air leak as a preventative measure against recurrence. At NorthShore, our specially trained thoracic surgeons use minimally invasive video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to repair the weakened area of the lung and help the lung adhere to the chest wall. This advanced technique, called thoracoscopic pleurodesis, typically yields a more than 95 percent success rate in preventing another collapsed lung.

For More Information

To schedule an appointment with one of our thoracic surgeons, please call 847.570.2868.