Pneumothorax

A pneumothorax is when air builds up between the outside of your lung and the inside of your chest wall (ribcage).

The air can come from your lung or from outside your body if there’s a serious injury to the chest. A pneumothorax caused by leaks of air from the lungs is more common in people with a lung condition such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. But it can occur in people who are otherwise completely healthy.

A large pneumothorax can squash the lung causing it to collapse.

Because this condition is rare, it may take some time to get a diagnosis. Your doctor will need to consider other possible causes of your symptoms. You may need to have a few tests and you might need to see a specialist.

The treatment of a pneumothorax depends on its size and whether it’s expanding.  If it’s small, no treatment may be needed. If it’s large, it will need to be drained using a syringe or a chest tube.

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Last medically reviewed: December 2016. Due for review: December 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.