Tension Pneumothorax Symptoms And Treatment

Pneumothorax is a condition when either gas or air gets collected in the pleural cavity. Pleural cavity is the space between the lungs and the wall of the chest. Pneumothorax occurs most commonly in men. This condition is seen to occur more frequently in smokers.

Pneumothorax may be of two types- primary or secondary.

Primary pneumothorax- occurs in individuals who have no history of any kind of chronic lung problem.

Secondary pneumothorax- occurs in individuals with a chronic lung problem.

The term Tension pneumothorax is used when the air from the lungs leaks out and enters the chest cavity. This results in compression of the various blood vessels that send the blood to the heart. This is a serious condition and can prove to be fatal if not treated at the right time.



-can arise due to any chest injury like stab wound, fracture of a rib

-can occur as a complication of any surgery in the chest area

-can occur as a complication of any underlying lung disease

-due to a ruptured cyst

-can be a complication of lung cancer

-this condition can occur in people suffering from asthma



-acute chest pain

-pain being sharp in nature

-chest tightness

-short breath



-rapid breath

-increased heart rate




Tension pneumothorax can be diagnosed by a simple chest examination. This is done with the help of a stethoscope which may show decreased or in some cases shows absent breath sounds. To confirm the diagnosis made, a chest x-ray is taken. Arterial blood gases examination also performed in special cases.



The treatment of tension pneumothorax varies on the degree of severity of the condition. Generally a small tension pneumothorax may resolve on its own without any treatment within 1-2 weeks. This is possible only where no underlying lung condition is present which may affect the healing.

When a large tension pneumothorax is present, air has to be aspirated or a chest tube has to be placed to pull out the air present in the chest cavity. This mode of treatment is done when an underlying lung condition is present. This is the standard treatment while treating a case of tension pneumothorax.

During the insertion of the chest tube, there are certain complications which can arise such as:

-infection of the pleural space

-pain during the insertion of the tube

-there can be a sudden drop in the blood pressure

-fluid can start accumulating in the lung

By removing the air accumulated in the lungs, the lungs can again expand and normal lung functions can be achieved.

In cases of a medical emergency, a needle may be inserted into the chest cavity to relieve the pressure which is building up inside the lung.

If the patient notices any signs or symptoms of tension pneumothorax then immediate medical help should be called for. Patients would need surgery if the condition arises again or when there is no re-expansion of the lung after 5 days of inserting the chest tube.



-acute respiratory failure

-person may suffer from a circulatory shock


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