Spontaneous Pneumothorax

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

A spontaneous pneumothorax is when part of your lung collapses. It happens if air collects in the pleural space (the space between your lungs and chest wall). The trapped air in the pleural space prevents your lung from filling with air, and the lung collapses. A spontaneous pneumothorax can happen in one or both lungs. A primary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs in a person with no known lung problems. A secondary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs in a person who has a known lung disease or medical condition.


CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • Air may continue to enter the pleural space and you may get a tension pneumothorax. With a tension pneumothorax, the injured lung and trapped air push against your uninjured lung. A tension pneumothorax can lead to low blood pressure, decreased oxygen in your blood, and heart problems.

  • Treatments that require cuts in your skin to reach your lung may lead to an infection in the lung area. During decompression, the needle used for the procedure may injure your lung or cut a blood vessel. This can cause bleeding around the lung. Chest tubes could be painful, become kinked or clogged, or could fall out or leak. Chest tubes could also cause a lung infection, or fluid could fill the lung instead of air. Chest tubes could damage blood vessels or other organs and cause bleeding and injury.

  • Without treatment, your lungs may completely collapse. Your heart could stop working. These problems can be life-threatening.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

You may need extra oxygen

if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

Pulse oximeter:

A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

Medicines:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain if other pain medicines do not work. Take the medicine as directed. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.

Tests:

You may need any of the following tests to help caregivers plan your treatment.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.

  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of the bones, lungs, and other tissues in your chest. Caregivers use chest x-rays to see if you have broken ribs. These x-rays may show your caregiver how large your pneumothorax is. Chest x-rays may also show fluid around the heart and lungs.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your chest and lungs. Caregivers check for a pneumothorax that did not show up on a chest x-ray. You may be given dye in your IV to help your caregivers see the images better. Tell the caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish or iodine. You may also be allergic to the dye.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of your lungs on a monitor.

Treatment options:

You may need one or more of the following:

  • Needle aspiration: During needle aspiration, a needle covered with a tube is put through your skin and into your pleural cavity. Your caregiver will use a syringe to pull the air out of your pleural space.

  • Chest tube: A chest tube may be placed to remove air, blood, or fluid from around your collapsed lung. This allows your lung to fill up with air when you breathe, and helps your heart beat normally. The chest tube is attached to a container to remove air and collect any blood or fluid.

  • Pleurodesis: Caregivers use chemicals, such as iodine or talc powder, to irritate the walls of your pleural space. This causes the walls of your pleural space to close together so air can no longer be trapped there.

  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery: Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is surgery done to look inside your chest with a video scope. During surgery, 2 to 3 small cuts are made between your ribs. The video scope and other special instruments are inserted into these incisions to repair your lung.

  • Thoracotomy: During a thoracotomy, an incision is made in your chest to repair your lung.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Spontaneous Pneumothorax (Inpatient Care)

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