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What is pneumothorax?

A pneumothorax is a total collapse of the lung caused by air entering the pleural space between the lung and chest wall. A partial collapse of the lung is called atelectasis.

This condition can be caused by a rupture of blebs, which are small air blisters on the surface of the lung. This may occur in young patients, especially tall, thin males. Other reasons for pneumothorax include rupture of a bleb in underlying emphysema or the result of a chest injury.


It is possible for a pneumothorax to resolve on its own. However, initial treatment of pneumothorax usually includes drainage of the air, if it is substantial.

This is performed with a chest tube or drain placed in between the ribs and into the chest cavity.  

The lung may require a surgical procedure to repair the leak site, often done with a video assisted thoracic surgical (VATS) approach in which the area is repaired with an endoscopic stapler. Hospitalization is usually several days following surgical repair if that course of treatment is chosen.

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