Atelectasis, which is the full or partial collapse of a lung, can be caused by a variety of issues and must be treated accordingly. If the airways are blocked by excessive mucous, it may need to be loosened and removed in a number of ways including through postural drainage, medications, or suctioning. When an issue like a tumor or buildup of fluid around the lung is putting pressure on it, atelectasis treatment may include surgery or other procedures to remove the pressure. Closure or collapse of the bronchial tubes can be addressed with bronchodilators, deep breathing exercises, or supplemental oxygen.
One of the most common reasons a patient needs atelectasis treatment is because of mucous blocking the passages in the lungs. To help it clear more easily, the patient may be given drugs like acetylcysteine to thin it out, or someone may need to use percussion on his or her chest to loosen it. Postural drainage, where the person is positioned so his or her head is lower than the chest, can also help the mucous to drain. In some cases, a doctor may need to use an instrument to suction it out.
Sometimes atelectasis treatment involves removing something that is pressing against a portion of the lung and thus causing it to collapse. Often a tumor is to blame; it may need to be removed surgically or in some cases treated with other procedures such as radiation or chemotherapy. Fluid can sometimes build up around the lungs, between them and the ribcage, and typically needs to be drained to relieve the pressure. Occasionally, a patient, usually a child, gets a foreign object lodged in his or her lungs that needs to be removed.
When the airways become compressed, such as when a patient is adversely affected by anesthesia or having a severe asthma attack, several types of atelectasis treatment may be used. Drugs called bronchodilators may be given to the patient to inhale that open up the bronchial tubes. The person may be instructed to do deep breathing exercises, also known as incentive spirometry. Supplemental oxygen may need to be administered to the patient to make breathing easier, possibly using a ventilator. It may also help to have the patient lie on the side of the lung that is not damaged, so the area that has collapsed has less pressure on it and can re-expand.