Symptomatic pneumothorax (summary)

Pneumothoraces (singular: pneumothorax) are collections of gas within the pleural space. If the pneumothorax is under pressure, it is called a tension pneumothorax.

Reference article

This is a summary article; read more in our article on pneumothorax.


  • anatomy
  • epidemiology
    • a wide range of patients present with pneumothoraces
    • epidemiology reflects the many potential causes
  • presentation
    • spontaneous pain
    • post-trauma
  • pathophysiology
    • primary spontaneous
      • no underlying lung disease
      • pleural bleb or bulla rupture
    • secondary spontaneous: underlying lung disease, e.g. asthmaCOPD
    • secondary: e.g. car accident, stabbing, gunshot, intervention (post lung biopsy)
  • investigation
    • chest x-ray
      • first line investigation
      • relatively high yield apart from small pneumothoraces
    • CT chest
      • trauma
      • suspicion of small pneumothorax and normal x-ray
  • radiographic features
    • general
    • chest x-ray
      • 3 main features
        • peripheral lucency
        • visible lung edge
        • the absence of lung markings peripheral to lung edge
      • erect chest x-ray
        • usually apical
        • can be difficult to see if small
    • CT chest
      • tiny pneumothoraces can be seen easily
      • causes and complications can be determined
  • treatment
    • small pneumothorax with minimal symptoms
      • primary spontaneous pneumothorax: discharge with early outpatient follow-up and advised to return if symptomatic
      • secondary pneumothorax: observe with high-flow oxygen therapy and consider intervention
    • symptomatic pneumothorax
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Article information

rID: 30104
System: Chest
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

Cases and figures

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    Case 1: right sided pneumothorax
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    Case 2: large left sided pneumothorax
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    Case 3: right sided pneumothorax
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    Case 4: apical bleb and pneumothorax
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