At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Involved in the Management of Pneumothorax?

H. Lo
H. Lo

Pneumothorax is a medical condition in which air leaks into the area surrounding the lung, applying pressure to the organ and causing a lung collapse. Management of pneumothorax depends on the size and severity of the collapse. In general, a small pneumothorax might only require bed rest and oxygen. For a more moderate collapse, management of pneumothorax includes the use of a needle or chest tube to remove the excess air. A large pneumothorax, or more serious condition, might call for surgery.

There are various factors that might cause pneumothorax, including chest injury and lung disease, as well as ruptured air blisters and the use of mechanical devices. Chest injuries include fractured ribs, gunshot wounds and injuries acquired from medical procedures. Examples of lung disease include emphysema, pneumonia and tuberculosis. Air blisters, or blebs, that form on the lungs can also spontaneously rupture during certain activities such as flying, mountain climbing and scuba diving. Mechanical devices that help with breathing can contribute to uneven breathing and cause a lung collapse as well.


Symptoms of pneumothorax might be mild or severe, depending on the size of the collapse. Common symptoms associated with the condition include chest pain and shortness of breath. Severe symptoms include fatigue, rapid heart rate and tightness in the chest. Pneumothorax can be so severe that it causes complications such as cardiac arrest, respiratory failure and shock. As such, a person should seek immediate medical attention if he or she experiences chest pain and shortness of breath, two symptoms that can be indicators of a variety of serious medical conditions.

After a doctor diagnoses a person with pneumothorax, he or she will decide upon the right treatment method to follow. As there are several ways to deal with the management of pneumothorax, treatment methods might differ from person to person. In general, the overall goal of treatment is to remove the excess air so that the pressure applied to the lungs decreases, which will then allow the lung to re-expand.

Sometimes, management of pneumothorax only consists of bed rest and oxygen as the condition heals itself. Other times, a doctor might need to remove the air with the use of tools, like a needle or chest tube, both of which remove the excess air. The difference is a chest tube inserted into the body can remain there for hours or even days. If a chest tube does not work, the affected person might have to undergo surgery. During surgery, the surgeon will close the air leak or introduce a substance into the area that will create a scar and close any leaks, thereby treating the condition.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Nurse