A collapsed lung (pneumonthorax) occurs when air accumulates in the space between the lung and the chest wall(pleural cavity). This causes the lung to partially or totally collapse and may cause difficulty breathing.
Sometimes a pneumothorax occurs when a small part of the lung spontaneously develops a leak. A pneumothorax may also occur with chest injuries or as a complication of a medical procedure, such as the placement of a central venous catheter.
A chest X-ray is taken to see whether or not a lung has collapsed. A tube (thoracostomy tube) can be placed through the chest wall into the space around the lung to drain the air (chest drainage) and re-expand the lung.
Treatment of a pneumothorax depends upon the size of the pneumothorax and the patient's symptoms. Not all collapsed lungs require treatment. Some will resolve spontaneously.
Related LinksNational Library of Medicine
The National Library of Medicine presents information and pictures about pneumothorax.