Collapsed Lung

Collapsed Lung in a Traumatic Accident

A collapsed lung is a life-threatening injury that could occur following a traumatic accident. Also called a pneumothorax, a lung can collapse when air gets in the chest cavity outside of the lung tissue. The lungs are protected by a thin lining called the pleural tissue. If air gets in between the outside of the lungs and the pleural tissue, the pressure of this air will cause the collapse of a lung. There are two different types of collapsed lungs. They are:

  • Simple Pneumothorax: A simple pneumothorax occurs when air is passing between the chest cavity and the outside world. Air is flowing in both directions.
  • Tension Pneumothorax: A tension pneumothorax is a life-threatening condition and a medical emergency. In a tension pneumothorax, the air is flowing into the pleural space but is not allowed to leave. With each breath, the tension pneumothorax is enlarging, causing further collapse of the lung.

It is essential for everyone to know how this injury occurs, the symptoms, the diagnosis, and the treatment of a pneumothorax.

The Causes of a Collapsed Lung

There are several common mechanisms of a collapsed lung. Some of the most common causes of a pneumothorax include:

  • A blunt chest injury that could occur in an auto accident when someone’s chest strikes the steering wheel or the dashboard.
  • A penetrating injury of the chest could occur via glass, shrapnel, or a physical assault.
  • Long-standing chronic lung disease could also lead to a spontaneous pneumothorax without a traumatic injury.
  • A traumatic accident, such as a motorcycle accident, could also cause the rupture of air blisters that reside in the chest cavity.

This type of lung injury requires the immediate attention of a medical professional. Some forms of collapsed lungs could be a life-threatening medical emergency.

The Symptoms of a Pneumothorax

If someone has suffered a pneumothorax, several signs and symptoms could appear. Some of these include:

  • A sudden chest pain that gradually worsens and is often described as an “elephant sitting on my chest”
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with exertion
  • Chest pain that gets worse when someone takes a deep breath
  • The lips might start to turn blue
  • A rapid heart rate that gradually gets worse
  • Breathing quickly
  • Profuse sweating
  • An impending feeling of doom

It is important to note that some people might have a few of these symptoms while others could experience all of the above. If someone presents with these symptoms following a traumatic accident, it will be essential to make a quick diagnosis so that the treatment process can begin.

Diagnosis of a Collapsed Lung

If the doctor suspects that someone might have a pneumothorax, he or she will look for a few physical exam findings. Some of these include:

  • Visible signs of a blunt or penetrating chest injury
  • Looking for a windpipe that deviates to one side or the other
  • Listening for absent breath sounds over one of the lungs due to the collapse

In addition to this, the doctor might order a chest x-ray or a CT scan. These images could show that one of the two lungs has collapsed. Also, a severe collapse could start to compress the heart as well, which could cause heart failure. In rare cases, the collapse on one side of the chest cavity might be so massive that the second lung may start to collapse as well.

Treatment of a Pneumothorax

Once someone has been diagnosed with a collapsed lung, the treatment process can begin. This treatment will focus on both fixing the pneumothorax and preventing it from returning. Some of the essential parts of this treatment plan include:

  • Emergency Treatment: The emergency treatment of a collapsed lung is called needle decompression. In this procedure, the doctor will insert a needle into the pleural space of the lungs to relieve the trapped air. This needle is inserted in between the ribs. By reducing the trapped air, the lung will re-inflate.
  • Long-Term Treatment: Once the lung has expanded, it will be essential to prevent future collapse. A chest tube is often placed to relieve any residual air and prevent the pneumothorax from returning. This chest tube will be removed before the individual goes home.

Watch YouTube Video: Treatment of Pneumothorax. This animated video demonstrates the treatment of a collapsed lung.

Sacramento Injury Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Injury Lawyer. A collapsed lung is a medical emergency and could be life-threatening. If you or someone you care for has been diagnosed with a chest injury in an accident, please reach out to me at (800) 404-5400 or (916) 921-6400 to receive free, friendly legal guidance and advice.

I’m a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum & of the Top One Percent, which is a National Association of Distinguished Counsel.

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Image Attribution: The image above was found on Pixabay and has been shown here with permission.

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