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Collapsed lung, or pneumothorax, is a severe condition requiring immediate medical attention.

However, this blog aims to provide essential information about totally or partially collapsed lungs, emphasizing the importance of seeking professional help urgently and how to fix a collapsed lung.

What is Pneumothorax?

The medical term for a collapsed lung is pneumothorax. It happens when air enters the pleural cavity (the area around your lungs). However, this can occur when an open injury in your lung tissue allows air to enter the pleural space. Therefore, the extra pressure on the outside of your lung leads to its collapse.

Figure: Pictorial representation of collapsed lungs.


Types of Pneumothoraxes

There are two main categories of pneumothorax, which are spontaneous and traumatic.

Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs without any related injury and is classified into two types:

  • Primary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs when a collapsed lung occurs without an underlying health condition. However, it may result from the rupture of abnormal lung air pockets (blebs).
  • Secondary spontaneous pneumothorax: Certain lung diseases can lead to a collapsed lung. Additionally, blockages in the lung can cause bulging areas that may rupture, leading to a collapsed lung.

On the other hand, traumatic pneumothorax is caused by injuries or medical procedures.

  • Injury-related pneumothorax: Resulting from chest injuries such as fractured ribs or knife wounds that puncture the lung.
  • Iatrogenic pneumothorax: Occurs when the lung is punctured during medical procedures like lung biopsies or central venous line insertions.

Furthermore, there are additional types of pneumothorax:

  • Tension pneumothorax: A critical form where air can enter the lungs but cannot escape, leading to increased pressure in the chest.
  • Catamenial pneumothorax: A rare condition associated with endometriosis, where endometrial tissue outside the uterus forms cysts that can bleed into the pleural space.

What Causes a Collapsed Lung?

Before you can learn how to fix a collapsed lung, know the causes:

Chest Injury:

Blunt or penetrating chest injuries can cause a lung collapse. However, such injuries may occur in physical assaults, vehicular accidents, or inadvertently during medical procedures that involve inserting a needle into the chest.

Lung Disease:

A higher susceptibility to lung collapse is associated with impaired lung tissue. Moreover, various underlying diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, or pneumonia, lead to lung damage.

Raptured Air Blisters:

Tiny air sacs known as blebs may form on the surface of the lungs. Occasionally, these air sacs rupture, releasing air into the surrounding space of the lungs.

Mechanical Ventilation:

Individuals requiring mechanical respiratory support may experience a severe form of pneumothorax. Nevertheless, ventilator usage can disrupt the air pressure equilibrium within the chest, potentially causing a complete collapse of the lung.

How Do You Know If You Have a Collapsed Lung? Risk Factors

Spontaneous pneumothorax typically manifests between the ages of 20 and 30. In the United States, pneumothorax is 7 per 100,000 men and 1 per 100,000 women annually. Hence, it is common in men.

Furthermore, underlying lung conditions or reliance on mechanical ventilation can trigger or contribute to risk factors for pneumothorax. Additional risk factors encompass:


The risk escalates in correlation with the duration and quantity of tobacco, even in the absence of emphysema.


Specific forms of pneumothorax have a familial tendency, indicating a genetic influence.

History of Pneumothorax:

Individuals who have experienced pneumothorax face an elevated risk of recurrence.

What Does a Collapsed Lung Feel Like?

Typical signs of a collapsed lung include:

  • Intense chest or shoulder discomfort exacerbated by deep breaths or coughing.
  • Breathlessness or Wheezing
  • Nasal flaring, a response to shortness of breath.

In instances of severe pneumothorax, symptoms intensify and may involve:

  • Bluish skin color due to oxygen deprivation.
  • Sensation of chest tightness.
  • Lightheadedness and a tendency toward fainting.
  • Fatigue with minimal exertion.
  • Altered breathing patterns or increased respiratory effort.
  • Elevated heart rate.

Diagnosis of Collapsed Lungs

Doctors typically diagnose a collapsed or a partially collapsed lung through a combination of tests, including:

Physical examination:

The doctor will listen to your breath with a stethoscope and check for signs of decreased breath sounds on the affected side.

Chest X-ray:

X-rays are the most common imaging test used to diagnose a collapsed lung. Additionally, it can show the presence of air in the pleural space and the extent of the collapse.

CT scan:

In some cases, healthcare professionals may require a CT scan to obtain a more detailed view of the lung and chest wall, mainly if the chest X-ray is inconclusive or if there is a concern about other underlying conditions.


In some situations, healthcare professionals may use an ultrasound to diagnose a collapsed lung, especially if you are pregnant or have certain medical conditions that make it difficult to perform a CT scan.

Arterial blood gas test:

ABGs can measure your blood’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which can help determine the severity of the collapsed lung and your overall oxygenation status.

How To Fix a Collapsed Lung

Understanding how to fix a collapsed lung involves recognizing symptoms. However, standard medical treatment for a collapsed lung may include:

Chest Tube Insertion:

A chest tube may be inserted into the chest cavity to remove air or fluid and allow the lung to re-expand.

Needle Aspiration:

Sometimes, healthcare professionals use a needle to remove excess air from the chest cavity.

Oxygen Therapy:

Providing supplemental oxygen may help improve oxygen levels in the blood and support lung function.


In mild cases, especially if the collapse is small, a healthcare professional may choose to monitor the individual closely.


Surgical intervention may be recommended in certain situations or for recurrent cases to prevent future collapses.

How To Fix a Collapsed Lung At Home?

Home care for a collapsed lung is generally not recommended as it is a severe medical condition that requires professional monitoring and treatment. However, in most cases, individuals with a collapsed lung will need to stay in the hospital for observation and treatment, which may involve chest tube insertion to drain the air and allow the lung to reinflate.

However, in certain situations where the collapsed lung is small and does not cause severe symptoms, your doctor may allow you to recover at home under close observation. Additionally, in these cases, your doctor should directly supervise home care, which will likely involve.

Strict monitoring of your symptoms:

This includes tracking your breathing rate, oxygen levels, pain, and any other relevant changes in your condition.

Activity restrictions:

Your healthcare provider will likely advise you to avoid strenuous activities that could further strain your lungs and worsen the collapse.


Depending on your specific case, your doctor may prescribe pain or other medications to manage your symptoms.

Regular follow-up appointments:

You must see your doctor regularly to monitor your progress and ensure the lung is re-inflating properly.

Moreover, if your healthcare provider sends you home to recover from a collapsed lung, it is crucial to:

  • Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and attend all follow-up appointments.
  • Report any worsening of symptoms immediately to your doctor.
  • Avoid activities that could aggravate your condition, such as smoking, strenuous exercise, and flying.
  • Get plenty of rest.


  • Home care for a collapsed lung is only appropriate in specific cases under a doctor’s supervision.
  • If you experience any symptoms of a collapsed lung, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Do not attempt to treat a collapsed lung at home on your own.
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