AtelectasisAtelectasisDescription, Causes and Risk Factors:Alternative Names: Pulmonary collapse.The lungs are divided into large sections called lobes. Each lobe is divided into smaller segments. Each of these segments is composed of thousands of small air cavities. These tiny spaces are called alveoli. Each alveoli is held open by complex walls called alveolar walls. These walls, along with a substance called surfactant that is produced by the lung, help keep the alveoli open and filled with air. When healthy people breathe, air travels all the way down the bronchial tubes to the alveoli. It is through these walls that gases like oxygen are transferred into the blood. When the alveoli cannot stay open, atelectasis occurs. When that happens, the lung cannot pass oxygen to the blood.Types: Obstructive atelectasis, Compressive atelectasis, and adhesive or congenital atelectasis.Obstructive atelectasis occurs when something prevents air from reaching the alveoli. This blockage may be caused by:Something stuck in the airway, such as a peanut or sunflower seed.
  • Diseases such as pneumonia, where mucous becomes thick.
  • Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder leading to episodes of muscle weakness.
  • Hypoventilation, a condition that occurs when there is a decrease in the usual amount of air that enters the lungs when a person breathes in. This can be caused by shallow breathing, which is often the result of chest pain. Decreased airflow to the lungs also can be a side effect of anesthesia after surgery.
Compressive atelectasis results when the air passages are closed from the outside. An enlarging lung tumor may press on the outside of the larger bronchial tubes, resulting in partial or complete closure.Adhesive or congenital atelectasis results from the lack of surfactant. Surfactant is a protein found naturally in the lungs that helps with gas exchange in the alveoli. It also helps keep the lungs elastic. This type of atelectasis can be caused by congenital disorders such as hyaline membrane disease. Without surfactant, the alveolar walls alone cannot keep the alveoli open.Risk Factors:Pleural effusion.
  • Pneumothorax.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Obesity.
  • Congenital lung disease, such as cystic fibrosis.
  • Neuromuscular disease.
  • Smoking.
  • Asthma.
Symptoms:Sudden Collapse:Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Dizziness.
  • Cyanosis.
Gradual collapse:Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
Diagnosis:Atelectasis is diagnosed by a person's symptoms and the physical exam findings. A chest x-ray that shows the airless part of the lung confirms the diagnosis. A chest CT scan may also help the doctor find what causing atelectasis.Treatment:Treatment usually depends on the cause. It may include drug therapy, chest physical therapy, bronchoscopy, and rarely surgery.
  • The side effects of treatment are much less distressing than the atelectasis. Each medicine will have side effects. Suctioning can be hard to tolerate, but usually relieves the blockage quite well.
  • Chest physical therapy may be done to help remove mucous from the lungs. It involves clapping, patting, and massaging the chest and back over the lungs. The lungs may be suctioned with a small plastic tube.
  • Bronchoscopy may be done to remove foreign objects or a mucous plug. This involves using an instrument with a lighted tip to see inside the lungs. Controlling the pain in people who have undergone surgery is very important. This enables them to do deep breathing exercises, forcing air into their lungs. These exercises open the alveoli and reduce atelectasis.
Note:The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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