Atelectasis - Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Atelectasis is the collapse of part or (much less commonly) all of a lung.

The primary cause of atelectasis is obstruction of the bronchus serving the affected area. This condition may be caused by obstruction of the major airways and bronchioles, by pressure on the lung from fluid or air in the pleural space, or by pressure from a tumor outside of the lung.

Symptoms of Atelectasis : Breathing difficulty, Chest pain, Cough, Fever, low-grade, usually after surgery.

Atelectasis is diagnosed by clinical exam, close monitoring of a post-operative clinical course, and x-ray.

Prevention of Atelectasis
  • Encourage movement and deep breathing in anyone who is bedridden for long periods.
  • Keep small objects out of the reach of young children.
  • Maintain deep breathing after anesthesia.

Treatment of Atelectasis

If atelectasis is due to obstruction of the airway, the first step in treatment is to remove the cause of the blockage. This may be done by coughing, suctioning, or bronchoscopy. If a tumor is the cause of atelectasis, surgery may be necessary to remove it. Antibiotics are commonly used to fight the infection that often accompanies atelectasis. In cases where recurrent or long-lasting infection is disabling or where significant bleeding occurs, the affected section of the lung may be surgically removed.

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