Pneumothorax is a condition that affects the pleural cavity, the virtual cavity bounded by two thin membranes, lining the chest cavity and the outside of the lungs. Pneumothorax is caused by the introduction of air or gas in the cavity, which causes detachment and/or a collapsed lung. There are different types of pneumothorax: spontaneous pneumothorax, when air travels from the lung through a gap, traumatic pneumothorax, when air from outside enters via an external intrusion as a wound, or an invasive procedure as puncture (known in this latter case as iatrogenic pneumothorax). Pneumothorax may be primary, that is to say, occurring in a healthy lung or secondary to the development of a lung disease. Note that primary spontaneous pneumothorax is a condition that occurs often in young people, affecting more often people who are lanky, tall and thin.
Symptoms of pneumothorax include:
- violent and sudden chest pain, lateralized, troubling breathing;
- an overall anxiety about this painful discomfort;
- a dry cough;
- grave signs can also be present such as cyanosis, blue coloration of the skin or mucous membranes, tachycardia, rapid breathing, and difficulty speaking.
For pneumothorax, the doctor will initially perform a physical examination of the patient where he listens to the lungs and searches for asymmetry. A chest x-ray will confirm the suspected diagnosis by highlighting the detachment of the lung.
There are many treatments of pneumothorax, but the main goal is to clear the air in the pleural cavity. When the disease is low in intensity, it suffices for the patient to rest so that the air infiltrating the pleura dissipates. Painkillers are also prescribed. In the most severe cases, emergency action is performed: this is called exsufflation, where a needle is inserted into the aeric cavity. Another technique is pleural drainage: suctioning the gas.
It is impossible to prevent pneumothorax. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of its recurrence. To do this, it is imperative to stop smoking and to practice certain types of physical activities such as scuba diving. Similarly, it is necessary to avoid playing a wind instrument like the saxophone or trumpet. Finally, aviation and altitude can also promote disease recurrence due to significant changes in pressure. After a pneumothorax, there is a technique generally used to limit the risk of recurrence: pleurodesis.