Atelectasis is the collapse of part or (much less commonly) all of a lung.
See also: Pneumothorax
Atelectasis is caused by a blockage of the air passages (bronchus or bronchioles) or by pressure on the outside of the lung.
It is common after surgery, or in patients who were in the hospital.
Risk factors for developing atelectasis include:
The goal of treatment is to re-expand the collapsed lung tissue. If fluid is putting pressure on the lung, removing the fluid may allow the lung to expand.
The following are treatments for atelectasis:
In an adult, atelectasis in a small area of the lung is usually not life threatening. The rest of the lung can make up for the collapsed area, bringing in enough oxygen for the body to function.
Large areas of atelectases may be life threatening, especially in a baby or small child, or someone who has another lung disease or illness.
The collapsed lung usually reinflates slowly if the blockage of the airway has been removed. However, some scarring or damage may remain.
In general, the outlook depends on the underlying disease. For example, people with extensive cancer have a poor prognosis, while patients with simple atelectasis after elective surgery have good prognosis.
Pneumonia may develop quickly after atelectasis in the affected part of the lung.
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of atelectasis.
Partial lung collapse
O’Donnell AE. Bronchiectasis, atelectasis, cysts, and localized lung disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 90.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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