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Alternative Names Return to topPartial lung collapse
Definition Return to top
Atelectasis is the collapse of part or all of a lung.
See also: Pneumothorax
Causes Return to top
Atelectasis is caused by a blockage of the air passages (bronchus or bronchioles) or by pressure on the outside of the lung.
Risk factors for developing atelectasis include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
The goal of treatment is to re-expand the collapsed lung tissue. If fluid is compressing the lung, removing the fluid may allow the lung to expand.
The following are treatments for atelectasis:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
In an adult, atelectasis in a small area of the lung is usually not life threatening. The rest of the lung can make up for the collapsed area, bringing in enough oxygen for the body to function.
Large atelectases may be life threatening, especially in a baby or small child, or someone who has another lung disease or illness.
The collapsed lung usually reinflates gradually once the obstruction has been removed. However, some scarring or damage may remain.
Possible Complications Return to top
Pneumonia may develop rapidly after atelectasis.
Massive atelectasis may result in the complete collapse of a lung.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of atelectasis.
Prevention Return to top
References Return to top
Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Murray JF, Nadel JA. Mason, Murray & Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa:Saunders; 2005.
Westerdahl E, Lindmark B, Eriksson T, Friberg O, Hedenstierna G, Tenling A. Deep-breathing exercises reduce atelectasis and improve pulmonary function after coronary artery bypass surgery. Chest. November 2005;128:3482-3488.Update Date: 8/29/2008 Updated by: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, WA; Benjamin Medoff, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pulmonary and Critical Care Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.