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What are the four types of pneumothorax?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Pneumothorax is when air gets into the pleural cavity, often leading to a fully or partially collapsed lung. There are four types of pneumothorax. They are:

  • traumatic pneumothorax. This occurs when an injury to the chest (as from a car wreck or gun or knife wound) causes the lung to collapse.
  • tension pneumothorax. This type can be fatal. It occurs when pressure inside the pleural cavity is greater than the outside atmospheric pressure. It can force the entire lung to collapse and can push the heart toward the lung, putting pressure on both.
  • primary spontaneous pneumothorax. This happens when a small air bubble on the lung ruptures. These may happen for no obvious reason or while undergoing changes in air pressure (like when scuba diving or mountain climbing).
  • secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. This typically happens to those who already have lung disease. As the lung is already compromised by disease and may have diminished capacity, this can be a serious complication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.