What Are Atelectasis and Pneumothorax?

Atelectasis and pneumothorax are conditions in which the lung or part of the lung collapses, causing chest pain and difficulty breathing.

Atelectasis is when one or more lobes (sections) of the lung collapse because of a blockage or pressure inside or outside the bronchial tubes in the lungs. The blockage causes air to become trapped, creating a sensation of shortness of breath. Blockages can be caused by:

  • Mucus plug
  • Tumor
  • Inhaled foreign object

Pneumothorax is the buildup of air or gas in the pleural space (the space between the lung and chest wall), which causes the lung to collapse. This may be caused by physical trauma to the lung, such as a wound. When there is no apparent cause, the condition is known as spontaneous pneumothorax.