Pneumothorax - Causes

Sometimes pneumothorax occurs for no known reason. In such a case, the process is called spontaneous pneumothorax. This condition occurs most commonly among tall, thin men between the ages of twenty and forty. People with lung disorders are also subject to spontaneous pneumothorax. Emphysema (see emphysema entry), cystic fibrosis (see cystic fibrosis entry), and tuberculosis (see tuberculosis entry) are examples of such lung disorders.

Pneumothorax can also occur as the result of an accident or injury to the chest cavity. This type of pneumothorax is called traumatic pneumothorax. Certain kinds of medical procedures can cause traumatic pneumothorax. An example is the procedure known as thoracentesis (pronounced thoruh-sen-tee-sis). In thoracentesis, a large needle is inserted into the chest wall to remove fluids. Sometimes air accidentally enters the chest during this procedure. If so, traumatic pneumothorax can result.

The most serious type of pneumothorax is tension pneumothorax. Tension pneumothorax can be caused by injuries, such as a fractured rib, or by lung disease, such as asthma (see asthma entry), chronic bronchitis (see bronchitis entry), or emphysema. In this form of pneumothorax, a large amount of air gets into the chest cavity and cannot escape. It can cause the lung to collapse quickly. It can also push on the heart and its blood vessels. Without immediate treatment, tension pneumothorax can result in death.

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