What is Atelectasis of the Lung?
Atelectasis refers to the collapse of lung tissues which may affect a part of a lung or the whole lung itself. Usually the alveoli part collapses resulting to impaired gas exchange. Fluid retention in the lungs may also lead to the collapse of some tissues leading to the condition known as atelectasis.
There are two known types of atelectasis. The first type is called acute atelectasis which usually results from surgery involving the opening of the chest cavity or the abdominal area. This type of atelectasis may also result from physical trauma to the lungs like during car accidents or stabbing incidents. The second type of atelectasis is called chronic atelectasis which may either be rounded atelectasis or middle lobe syndrome. Rounded atelectasis involves the slow collapse of the outer portions of the lung which is secondary to scarring of the pleura that covers the lungs. Middle lobe syndrome meanwhile refers to contraction of the middle lobe of the right lung due to bronchial pressure. Pressure provided by the bronchi may be secondary to a tumor or enlargement in the lymph glands.
Common symptoms of atelectasis include breathlessness, tachycardia or increased heart rate, chest pain, fever, and infection. Some patients may experience coughs but not prominently. It is also common for patients to have low oxygen saturation and pleural effusion which may lead to cyanosis in the later stages of the illness.
Diagnosis of this illness is through chest x-rays, bronchoscopy, or computed tomography. Treatment and management meanwhile will depend on the underlying cause of the illness. For those with breathing difficulties, physical therapy may be advised with emphasis on breathing techniques and exercises. For those with infection, antibiotics may be given. In severe cases, mechanical ventilators may be necessary to assist in breathing. For some, surgical removal of the affected part of the lung may be necessary.