Atelectasis is a condition where a portion of the lung has collapsed or is not able to completely expand. Normally, oxygen enters the body through the lungs. Carbon dioxide is released through the lungs. The lungs expand and contract to create the exchange of these gases. Atelectasis is not a disease, but a condition or sign that results from disease or abnormalities in the body.
Conditions that limit physical activity such as
, spinal cord injury, heart problems,
, or severe illness of any kind
, especially in patients who are obese or smoke
Breathing supplemental 100% oxygen
Breathing in a foreign body, such as a peanut or a marble
Injury to the chest wall
A collapsed lung may or may not cause symptoms. Small areas of collapse are less likely than larger areas to cause symptoms. Major atelectasis decreases the amount of oxygen available throughout the body.
Symptoms that may occur if a large area has collapsed include:
Shortness of breath
Taking shallow breaths
Decreased chest movement during breathing
Rapid heart rate
Blueness of the lips or nails
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This may include listening to your lungs for changes in the normal sounds.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to view the lungs and locate a collapsed area
—use of a thin, lighted tube, which is inserted down the throat, to examine the lungs and air passages
Additional tests to assess the status of the heart, blood vessels, and airways
Treatment focuses on treating the underlying cause and maintaining adequate air supply. The collapsed lung usually expands once the underlying cause has been corrected. Atelectasis often resolves on its own without treatment.
The therapist uses different techniques to help clear mucus from the lung. You will be positioned so that gravity helps secretions flow out of the body. When resting in bed, lie on the unaffected side to promote drainage from the lung that has collapsed.
This may include any or all of the following:
Breathing masks or treatments to help keep your airways open
Incentive spirometry to help you learn to take deeper breaths
Suction to help remove secretions
A breathing machine, called a ventilator, if you are unable to breathe adequately on your own
Medications may include:
Drugs to open the airways
Drugs to treat the disease that caused the collapse
Antibiotics to treat an infection
Cardiac drugs to control heart disease
Inhalers and other drugs to manage asthma or emphysema
Oxygen, if you are having trouble breathing
Bronchoscopy may be used to remove a foreign body or mucus that is blocking the airway.
Measures to prevent atelectasis are related to the various causes. They include:
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a