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A collapsed lung is a medical condition that appears when air leaks out of the lung. The leaking air then fills in the space outside the lung. The space that gets filled with air is usually between the lung and chest wall. The accumulation of air in extra pulmonary spaces puts pressure on the lung. Eventually, the lung is not able to expand as much as it usually does when we take regular breaths.  The given medical name of this condition is pneumothorax. This article will focus on the contrasting conditions of atelectasis vs pneumothorax.

Causes of Collapsed Lung:

The reason behind a collapsed lung is an injury to the lung. A gunshot, a bullet wound, a knife stab to the chest, potential rib fractures, or any other medical injuries can result in a collapsed lung.

Furthermore, in various cases, a collapsed lung is also caused by air blisters or air blebs. Air blisters rupture and allow air inside the lung. This usually happens when there is air pressure fluctuation inside the lung. Scuba divers or mountaineers ascending from higher altitudes usually face lung collapse injuries.

Moreover, tall, thin, slender, and regular smokers are more prone to suffering from lung collapse.

Diseases That Increase the Chance of Lung Collapse:

Diseases that increase the chances of a collapsed lung are as follows:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping cough

Sometimes a lung collapse occurs without any external or internal cause. That kind of lung collapse is known as “spontaneous lung collapse”.

Symptoms of Lung Collapse:

Following are the symptoms of lung collapse.

  • Strong and spontaneous shoulder and chest pain
  • Exacerbated pain on a deep breath
  • Intense pain in cough
  • Shortness of breath or dyspnea
  • Nasal flaring due to dyspnea

Symptoms of Large Pneumothorax:

Symptoms of a large pneumothorax can be more severe.

  • Bluish color of the skin due to lack of oxygen
  • Chest tightness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irregular breathing patterns
  • The extra effort of breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock and collapse

Laboratory Tests and Exams for Lung Collapse:

The required laboratory tests and exams for lung collapse are.

  • Chest X-ray
  • Arterial blood gases and other blood tests
  • CT scan if multiple injuries or conditions are suspected
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Atelectasis vs Pneumothorax:

What are Atelectasis and Pneumothorax?

Atelectasis is defined as the collapse of one or multiple sites of the lung. On the other hand, pneumothorax is defined as the presence of air in the pleural cavity of the lungs. The pleura is a double-layered covering that protects the lung. It lines the inside and outside of the chest cavity. The space between the pleural layers is known as the pleural cavity, which separates the lungs from the chest wall. This is the space where all leaked air accumulates and causes a pneumothorax.

The Difference in Causes of Atelectasis and Pneumothorax:

Atelectasis vs Pneumothorax – Atelectasis is usually seen after surgical intervention in the chest and abdomen. In such cases, alveoli collapse and lower survival chance. Atelectasis is also caused because of the blockage of air passages. The obstruction occurs due to the presence of foreign bodies and mucus plugs. According to research, it has been observed that sometimes pathogenic tumors also block the airways.

Atelectasis is also found in premature neonates because of less surfactant. Surfactant is the fluid that keeps the inside of the lungs lubricated. It helps in the coating of the lungs and keeps the air sacs open. If the surfactant is not present in sufficient amounts, it can cause lung collapse. Moreover, atelectasis can also be caused by the presence of fluid in the pleural cavity.

On the contrary, pneumothorax is caused because of an injury to the chest wall. Any stab from a sharp instrument, be it a knife or a dagger, a fractured rib, or an accidental injury to the chest can cause a pneumothorax. Usually, tall and lean people are more likely to face a pneumothorax because small air sacs or air blebs can rupture, and air can leak into the pleural space.

Pneumothorax can damage the lungs potentially and can be seen in asthma, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and sometimes lung cancer. Additional risk factors for pneumothorax are the use of drugs and smoking.

The Difference in Signs and Symptoms of Atelectasis and Pneumothorax:

In atelectasis, patients report complaints of cough, chest pain, troubled breathing, rapid heartbeat, and increased respiratory rate. On the other hand, in pneumothorax, the patient complains of dry and rash cough, instant breathlessness, and severe stabbing pain in the chest.

In a tension pneumothorax, air enters the pleural cavity but hardly escapes from it. This is a known medical emergency. In tension pneumothorax, the air turns into blue discoloration, and blood pressure drops, heart rate, and respiratory rate both are increased.

In both cases, a chest X-ray and CT scan of the chest will be helpful in the diagnosis of the condition, and In atelectasis, the windpipe shifts towards the affected side, while in pneumothorax, the trachea shifts towards the opposite side.

Treatment of a Collapsed Lung – Atelectasis vs Pneumothorax:

Atelectasis vs Pneumothorax – Doctors advise chest physiotherapy in the form of extensive breathing exercises for atelectasis. A bronchoscopy can be done in case of any obstruction or airway blockage. In bronchoscopy, a thin tube is inserted into the nose and then proceeded towards the airway. The airway is then cleared. Surgical removal is taken place in the case of tumors, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Post-operatively, antibiotics and bronchodilators are advised.

In pneumothorax, the underlying cause is treated. A chest tube is inserted into the chest cavity, and suction is done. Oxygen therapy is also advised, followed by antibiotics.

Can You Live with One Lung?

The human body is provided with two lungs that are used for gas exchange. But there are instances where the doctor advises lung removal due to an accident, a medical condition, or cancer. However, don’t panic; you can still survive with just one lung. In spite of this, each person will differ, and specific factors in each case must be taken into account, focusing on the person’s lung function and any other problems they may be dealing with.

The lungs are a vital part of the human body because they deliver oxygen to the body and eliminate waste gases during breathing. Is it really possible for a human to survive on just one lung?

Even though having both lungs is crucial and important for breathing, living with only one lung is still possible. But it is true that only having one lung might make it difficult for someone to engage in physical activities, such as jogging or intensive exercise. However, it has been claimed that many sportsmen can live healthy lives on just one lung.

In numerous ways, the body adjusts to this alteration. For instance, the remaining lung may somewhat enlarge to fill the void created by the lost lung. The body will eventually figure out how to compensate for the oxygen deficit.

The person will not be able to respire normally or have full lung capacity. With time, he or she will become accustomed to these changes, and he or she will learn how to slow down in accordance with the situation.

Risk Factors:

Living with one lung has some risks, some of which are listed below:

  • Healing takes time.
  • Little physical activity
  • The flow of blood lessens
  • Fainting
  • Standing or adopting specific postures
  • Smokers are significantly more in danger

Pneumectomy is the medical term for lung removal operations. All risk factors are discussed prior to surgery the patient. Because following surgery, extra care must be done to prevent any accident that could endanger the patient’s life.

People with a history of smoking or other lung diseases affecting their ability to breathe deeply should exercise special caution. They should consult a doctor frequently to understand their dangers and may require special care during recuperation.

If a person is otherwise healthy, having a lung removed shouldn’t adversely limit them. Since no two situations will be precisely the same, each person will need to become familiar with the particular restrictions in each one.

Living with one lung may be more difficult for someone who has additional conditions that impact their lungs or make breathing more difficult.

Treatment for One Lung:

Pneumectomy is dangerous surgery that is only performed when infections or malignancies have gotten out of control. Before having your lung removed, all the hazards listed above must be thoroughly discussed.

Furthermore, living with one lung is definitely possible. However, it just restricts some bodily functions. Everything is fine as long as you are careful enough to take care of it. The residual lung may be strengthened by recovery techniques and pulmonary rehabilitation, which can also help people gradually improve their pulmonary function.

Wrap Up:

In case of any sort of respiratory disorder, collapsed lung, or atelectasis vs pneumothorax, you can visit our lung and sleep center in Michigan. We hope this increases your knowledge of pulmonary conditions and will help you take care of yourself and your loved ones.

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