What is Spontaneous Pneumothorax?

A spontaneous pneumothorax is the sudden onset of a collapsed lung without any apparent cause, such as a traumatic injury to the chest or a known lung disease. A collapsed lung is caused by the collection of air in the space around the lungs.


What Causes Spontaneous Pneumothorax?

Blebs: Small air blisters that can sometimes burst and allow air to leak into the space that surrounds the lungs.
Lung disease: Damaged lung tissue is more likely to collapse and can be caused by many types of underlying diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and pneumonia.
Trauma: An injury to your chest can cause lung collapse. This can occur do to car crashes or inadvertently occur during medical procedures that involve the insertion of a needle into the chest.


Types of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Primary: can happen in any individual with unknown lung problems

Secondary: tends to occur in people with known lung problems


Symptoms of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest wall pain
Risk Factors

Risk Factors of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

  • Sex:
    • Young men 20-30 years old may develop a collapsed lung that is usually associated with a bleb (like a blister) on the surface of the lung
    • Women age 30-40 may develop catamenial PTX associated with Endometriosis and their menstrual cycle,
  • Genetic: Birt Hogg Dube(BHD) syndrome is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder that causes pneumothorax, and may also cause kidney cancer, kidney and lung cysts, and noncancerous tumors of the hair follicles (fibrofolliculomas). Although lung cysts occur in 84% of patients with BHD, only 24% will have a PTX.
  • Smoking: Can cause emphysema which causes bullae (holes in the lungs) that may rupture
  • Lung Disease: Emphysema, LAM (lymphangiolyomyomatosis) 65% will develop a PTX and  average 3.6 episodes
  • Sporadic: Some cases are just random

Treatment of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

As long as the patient is stable, not hypoxic, and the pneumothorax is small, the first step is observation. If the patient is unstable, hypoxic, or the pneumothorax is large, then the pleura is drained with a catheter or a chest tube. Usually, the pneumothorax and the air leak will resolve.

When to see a doctor

Symptoms can be caused by a variety of health problems, so it is important to seek medical attention. If your chest pain is severe or breathing becomes increasingly difficult, get immediate emergency care.

Doctors Who Treat Spontaneous Pneumothorax (Collapsed Lung)