Collapsed Lung

Collapsed Lung: Overview

Alternative names: Pneumothorax, Air around the lung; Air outside the lung.

A collapsed lung occurs when air escapes from a lung and fills the space surrounding the lungs, increasing the pressure on the lung(s) and making it difficult for them to expand.

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Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

Collapsed lungs may occur for various reasons, including chest wounds, broken ribs, or during a medical procedure.  Sometimes there is no identifiable cause.

Risk factors for pneumothorax include being tall and thin, whooping cough, and having had at least one collapsed lung in the past.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • (Main symptom) Shortness of breath
  • (Main symptom) Sharp chest pain that is worse when breathing deeply or coughing
  • Turning blue due to lack of oxygenation
  • Chest tightness
  • Becoming easily fatigued
  • Rapid pulse rate

Diagnosis and Tests

The diagnostic procedure normally involves checking to see if breathing can be heard with a stethoscope on the affected side, checking for low blood pressure, measuring arterial blood gas content, and a chest X-ray.

Treatment and Prevention

A minor pneumothorax may go away by itself with only bed rest and oxygen if necessary.  More serious cases require extraction of the air from around the lung(s), using a chest tube that is inserted between the ribs.  Lung surgery may be required to repair the damage and/or prevent future recurrence.

On This Page

Collapsed Lung:

Risk factors for Collapsed Lung:


Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic Fibrosis increases the risk of a collapsed lung.



Tuberculosis increases the risk of a collapsed lung.

Lab Values - Scans




Asthma increases the risk of a collapsed lung.

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

COPD increases the risk of a collapsed lung.

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Weak or unproven link: may increase risk of
Weak or unproven link:
may increase risk of
Strong counter-indication: often decreases risk of
Strong counter-indication:
often decreases risk of
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