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What are the Different Types of Pneumothorax Treatment?

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  • Written By: Dave Slovak
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2016
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A pneumothorax is a pulmonary illness wherein air or gas collects in the pleural cavity, which is an area surrounding a person’s lungs. This condition is also known as a collapsed lung since the trapped air prevents the lungs from inflating properly. The different types of pneumothorax treatment are based on the four types of the condition, which include: primary pneumothorax, secondary pneumothorax, traumatic pneumothorax, and tension pneumothorax. Those afflicted with this condition typically experience chest pain and shortness of breath, but more severe cases may also include an increased heart rate and a significant lack of oxygen. The objective of pneumothorax treatment is to remove the air trapped in the pleural cavity, with the mildest cases requiring only rest, but more severe cases needing a chest tube or even surgery.

A primary pneumothorax typically is not the result of an underlying lung problem, so small cases may not require medical treatment, only rest and oxygen. If the patient does not experience breathlessness and the pneumothorax is determined to be very small, then the doctor may even treat the patient on an outpatient basis. The body typically absorbs the air in the pleural cavity over time, but the doctor advises the patient to return to the hospital if symptoms worsen. The doctor may also provide the patient with inhalation techniques to help re-inflate the affected lung.

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Pneumothorax treatments for larger primary and secondary cases, however, typically require hospital admission and treatment. Even when an underlying lung problem does not exist, larger cases require a more active pneumothorax treatment. This treatment may involve using a needle to suction air out of the cavity, which can take a few hours up to a few days. If the patient does not respond to the needle treatment, the doctor may opt to use a chest tube. Some doctors prefer to treat patients with a needle since it causes fewer complications, but others prefer the chest tube since it is the most definitive pneumothorax treatment for removing the trapped air.

Traumatic pneumothorax and tension pneumothorax both require emergency medical care, and the first responders typically insert a needle to remove the air from the pleural cavity. In both cases, the patient must be transported to a hospital, where the medical staff typically inserts a chest tube into the cavity. In a traumatic pneumothorax, medical personnel are careful to cover open chest wounds, as they can lead to a tension pneumothorax, which is a life-threatening condition.

Patients who frequently suffer a pneumothorax may seek surgical treatment to prevent future occurrences. Patients may choose to undergo a procedure known as video-assisted thoracoscopy to repair any leaks in their pleural cavities that may be causing the pneumothorax. Another surgical procedure, a thoracotomy, provides the best results when it comes to repairing the pleural cavity and preventing a future pneumothorax. That surgical option, however, is much more invasive and involves general anesthesia.

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