Two layers of thin membrane cover your lungs. The two membranes normally touch each other. But sometimes the space between the membranes, called the pleural space, fills up with air or fluid.
Air in the pleural space is called pneumothorax. Fluid in the pleural space is called pleural effusion.
"Pneumo-" means air, and -"thorax" is another word for chest. So a pneumothorax is a build-up of air in the pleural space. This causes part or all of your lung to collapse.
A pneumothorax is caused by a tear or injury to the membrane around your lung. This can happen from:
Symptoms of a pneumothorax depend on how much air enters the pleural space and how much of your lung collapses. Symptoms may happen suddenly or slowly. You may have:
Shortness of breath
Sometimes, pain in your shoulder
If a large pneumothorax happens suddenly, sometimes shock and cardiac arrest
Usually, your body reabsorbs the air, and the pneumothorax goes away over 2 to 4 weeks.
Treatment depends on how large your pneumothorax is.
If there's only a small pneumothorax, doctors may:
For a larger pneumothorax, or if you're having trouble breathing, doctors will:
Usually the chest tube is connected to a vacuum device to pull the air out. You'll have the chest tube for a couple days until your lung heals.