Medical Q&As

Collapsed lung - please explain?

Could you please tell me something about a sudden collapsed lung in a fifteen year old boy? Could it happen again?

This sounds like a case of pneumothorax, which means that air is present outside the lung. An X-ray of a pneumothorax reveals that the lung is collapsed and most of the chest cavity on the affected side is full of air. There are different types of pneumothorax. The commonest type is called a spontaneous pneumothorax, which means that the condition happens spontaneously for no known reason. It predominantly affects tall thin young men. A history of cigarette smoking or a family history of the condition can be contributory factors. The condition can also happen as a complication of a pre-existing lung condition such as asthma, obstructive airways disease, cystic fibrosis, or even severe whooping cough. Pneumothorax can also happen as a result of trauma such as penetrating injuries from stabbing, a gunshot wound or a road traffic accident. In the case of spontaneous pneumothorax the lung usually re-inflates over several days but sometimes it might be necessary to insert a drain into the chest cavity to allow the air around the lung to escape. There is a small risk of recurrence with spontaneous pneumothorax but most people usually experience it just once. If the condition has occurred because of an underlying lung condition the condition could recur on several occasions.