Atelectasis is a collapse of part or all of a lung as a result of a blockage in one of the bronchi, the tubes that carry air from the trachea to lung tissue. A blockage may be caused by a number of factors, including a buildup of mucus or fluid in the airways. The blockage can also be caused externally to the bronchi by a tumor or a lymph node. It is a common occurrence for a patient who has had surgery or was recently released from the hospital.
Symptoms of Atelectasis
Patients with atelectasis usually experience the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath (the primary symptom)
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Dry cough
Patients who smoke or have lung disorders are at greater risk of developing atelectasis, which can be diagnosed through a physical examination and chest X-ray to confirm the blockage exists.
Treatment for Atelectasis
Treatment for atelectasis focuses on relieving airway blockages. Treatment options include the following:
- Suctioning (for mild cases)
- Bronchoscopy (for larger blockages)
- Chemotherapy (may be necessary for tumors blocking the bronchi)
- Respiratory treatments to open the airway
- Deep breathing exercises with a spirometry device
The best treatment depends on the individual, and is determined after a thorough evaluation by a physician.