Emergency Services: Lung

Emergency Services: Lung

One of the major emergencies that we at Frontline ER often face is a collapsed lung. When this happens, it can sometimes lead to a serious issue and even death. Thus, it is important to visit the hospital whenever you suspect that you have a collapsed lung. This article will explore this serious in detail to help you cope with it in case it ever occurs.

Causes of a Collapsed Lung

The collapsed lung occurs when air gets into the space between the lungs and the inner chest wall. When the air leaks into this space, it takes the space, which lungs would occupy, and makes it impossible to breathe. As a result, the lung collapses.

Why a Lung Would Collapse

One reason is that a broken rib could puncture the cavity. Besides that, a knife or sharp object might puncture the chest cavity. The other reason is that a weak spot on the lungs could start to leak air. Smoking damage can cause lungs to leak air. Besides that lung cancer, asthma or pneumonia can cause this issue.

Signs and Symptoms

The first symptom will be a sharp pain followed by shortness of breath. When it occurs, a stethoscope will not hear breathing on the side of the chest that collapsed. The treatment is by using a chest tube that offers constant suction.


If there is a puncture to the chest cavity, we at Frontline ER will seal it with a bandage or petroleum jelly. You will also need to reduce your physical activity until you can visit the doctor. Most leaks heal on their own.

If there is a major shortness of breath, you will need to get expert help. Alternatively, you can stick a 20-gauge needle with a syringe over the top of the rib. Go over the top since there is a nerve, artery, and vein below each rib. Try to get to an ER like Frontline ER as soon as you can.

The needle needs to go one and a half inches into the chest cavity. You will then have to pull it back. You will know you hit the right lung if you start to pull back some air. Only do this as the final option when someone appears as if he or she will not access medical help fast enough.

If the collapsed lung is a major one, the best solution is to hook up the lung cavity to a pipe that constantly sucks out air, which you will find at Frontline ER. This can take hours or days, giving the leak time to heal. Unless you have this device, you will need to suck out as much air as you can with the needle. You should use a 500cc syringe so that you will need to stick in only once or twice. However, surgery might be required to heal some holes.


Another rare type of collapsed lung we at Frontline ER see is known as a tension pneumothorax. This is where air pressure does not equalize. Instead, the leak becomes a valve and pushes air into the cavity. The air starts to build up and it cannot escape. This can put pressure on the lungs and heart.

In such a case, this turns into a real emergency. The blood pressure will drop as the pulse rises. In most cases, you will lose consciousness and the heart might even stop. The only option is to relieve pressure immediately.


There is very little that you can do to prevent a collapsed lung. However, the risk factor could be reduced. If you have experienced a collapsed lung, there is a high chance it might occur again in two years.

One way to prevent another collapsed lung is to stop smoking. Smoking increases the chances of a collapsed lung. You should try a program and talk to friends about helping you to quit. Besides that, never allow anyone to smoke around you. After the collapsed lung has been treated, do not travel in an airplane for at least a week or more. It is also important that you never go swimming at the deep end or diving again unless your life depends on it.

Besides that, go for regular medical checkups. It is especially so if you suspect a medical condition such as pneumonia.

Ensure that you get enough rest and sleep. You might feel weak but your energy levels will increase. When you cough, hold a pillow against the chest to decrease the pain in the chest. When given any medication especially antibiotics, ensure you take it. They help to prevent infections in the chest that could lead to major holes in your lungs.

If you had a bandage or syringe in the chest, keep the area where it was inserted dry and clean. For bandage care, listen to what the doctor told you. The wound could become infected and spread to the chest. If you go home with the tube in the chest, do as instructed by the doctor. For instance, avoid any movements that could force you to strain the chest muscles.


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