Trauma to the chest area in an automobile crash or a fall can result in a person’s lung being punctured—leading to traumatic pneumothorax, also called a collapsed lung. This is caused by a puncture hole in the lung allowing air to fill in the space between the lung and the chest wall, sometimes trapping the air in this space. This prevents the lung from filling with air and could cause it to collapse. If untreated, this condition can be life-threatening, so it is critical that a person who suspects his lung has been punctured seek medical treatment immediately.
Warning Signs of Lung Collapse
The symptoms of a collapsed lung can be mild at first, but a person experiencing any of the warning signs should be closely monitored by a medical professional. Symptoms a person could experience include:
Shortness of breath or more rapid breathing.
Soft bulges in the skin
Caused by the air being trapped under the skin, creating air bubbles; usually observed on the neck or chest.
A dull or sharp pain in the chest area.
Pale or blue skin
Oxygen levels in the blood drop and cause the skin to turn pale or bluish in color, especially on the lips, mouth, and nails.
A persistent, dry cough with chest pain after coughing.
Doctors use a variety of tests to determine if a person has a collapsed lung, including blood tests, a heart monitor, chest x-ray, or a CT scan.
Treatment for a collapsed lung can include medications, such as antibiotics, pain medicine, and sedatives, needle aspiration or a test tube to remove air or fluids, or surgery. In some cases, a person may need oxygen or to be placed on a ventilator for help with breathing. If untreated, a person’s lungs could completely collapse and the heart could stop working—with fatal results. It is critical that accident victims watch for the signs of a punctured lung to avoid risking even more dangerous complications from this serious medical condition.
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