What Is Pneumothorax Surgery?

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  • Written By: Glyn Sinclair
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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Pneumothorax surgery is a medical procedure that is employed to correct a collapsed lung. Air that has leaked and become trapped between the lung and chest wall can cause the lung, or a section of it, to collapse. A tiny fiber-optic camera is inserted through a small slit in the chest and the surgeon uses delicate instruments to locate the membrane blister, or bleb, and stitch it closed. If no leak is found, the surgeon will sometimes blow a powder into the area to close any potential holes. If the lung collapse is extensive, the surgeon may have to make a more substantial incision to gain better access to the chest cavity and lung in order to carry out pneumothorax surgery.

A collapsed lung, or air trapped between the lung and chest cavity, known as pneumothorax, can also be caused by a blow to the chest or previous lung diseases such as pneumonia or tuberculosis. It can also occur spontaneously. The immediate symptoms are acute chest pain on the side of the afflicted lung, and difficulty in breathing. There are instances when such a condition can rectify itself; however, it is always advisable to consult a medical professional if these symptoms ever occur in a sustained manner as pneumothorax surgery may be required. Before going into the chest cavity with instruments, surgeons will first attempt to draw out any excess air with a needle or tube.


Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax (PSP) can occur in young people even when there are no medical issues with the lungs. The condition can spontaneously happen during extreme changes in atmospheric pressure, such as when flying or scuba diving, and even exposure to very loud music. Studies show that taller people as well as smokers are more susceptible to this condition. Secondary Spontaneous Pneumothorax (SSP) occurs when a person already has underlying medical factors, such as lung disease. Tension pneumothorax happens during extreme hypoxia, as could happen during a severe drop in blood pressure, and this is deemed a medical emergency and could very well require pneumothorax surgery.

There are several other risk factors for pneumothorax. These can include gender, with men having higher incidents than women, family genetic history and age. People between 20 to 40 years of age are more disposed to pneumothorax occurrences. Someone who has experienced this condition before is at increased risk as well, usually within two years of the original episode. Patients already on some kind of ventilation machine to assist breathing are also in a higher risk category for pneumothorax.



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