What Are the Treatments for a Collapsed Lung?

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A collapsed lung can have many causes. Because of this, treatment should always be dictated by what caused the lung collapse in the first place. There are two main types of collapsed lung: atelectasis, which can be a partial or completely collapsed lung due to a blockage of the airway or from pressure outside the lung in the chest cavity, and pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung due solely to gas or air from outside the lungs.

Collapsed Lung Treatments

The goal of any collapsed lung treatment is to remove fluid from, and pressure on, the lung. Fluid, if it is compressing the lung, must be removed as soon as possible. If the lung is being compressed by air, then that air needs to be given an outlet.

Atelectasis-Specific Treatment

Because, technically, atelectasis encompasses the cause of lung collapse associated with pneumothorax, there are some treatments that cross over. There are several things that can be done in cases of atelectasis. Clapping the chest to loosen mucus is one commonly applied treatment. Deep breathing exercises can also help reinflate the lung. Obstructions can be removed using a procedure called bronchoscopy. Atelectasis can also be treated by placing the person's lungs above the head in body position, allowing mucus to drain from the lungs.

Pneumothorax-Specific Treatment

Pneumothorax is often less severe and will occasionally go away all by itself over time. Because the condition only applies to instances when air and gas surround the lungs, allowing that air and gas to exit the chest cavity may be required. To do this, a chest tube is inserted between the rib cage wall and the lungs, allowing air to escape. Chest tube treatment requires a stay in the hospital, and it's possible that the tube can be left in for days.

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