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Difference Between Pneumothorax and Atelectasis

Pneumothorax vs Atelectasis

Our respiratory system is tasked to handle the intake and expulsion of air, gas exchange, and the provision of vital oxygen which is needed by our body. This is considered as one of the most important systems in our body, although in fact, all systems in our body have a role to play in our survival. Nevertheless, it is important that we should always take special care of our respiratory system.

The upper respiratory tract includes the nose, and the trachea or windpipe. The inner respiratory tract includes mainly the lungs. Furthermore, the windpipe branches into the left and right lung, wherein the bronchi are found. It ends into the alveoli, in which gas exchange occurs. Blood is mixed with oxygen to the heart and into the different blood vessels, while carbon dioxide is expelled out. This is basically the main concept on the anatomy and simple physiology of how our respiratory system works.

Because of the importance of the respiratory system, it is imperative that we should always look out for problems associated with it. Respiratory problems may range from a cough and cold to serious conditions. We should not take any symptoms with our breathing or respiration as simple problems. This is because we might not know that something could already indicate a serious respiratory problem. This is why any difficulties of breathing, chest pain, or feelings of lack of air should be checked by a physician. There are a lot of respiratory problems out there. Oftentimes, most individuals have difficulty differentiating between a pneumothorax and atelectasis. This article will help you discern he difference between the two.

A pneumothorax is a respiratory condition which literally means abnormal air in the chest cavity outside the lungs. It sometimes occurs as a complication of another chronic respiratory problem. Most often, it happens because of a blunt injury, physical trauma, or direct force to the chest. Air leaks out of the lungs and into the surrounding cavity, called pleural cavity, causing chest pain, difficulty in breathing, and fainting. An X-ray may reinforce any physical assessment done by a physician.

On the other hand, an atelectasis is considered as a lung collapse. In this case, air does not leak into the surroundings cavity. Rather, the alveoli deflate and lose air, or there is airlessness. In acute cases, not all alveoli collapse and the condition is characterized by airlessness only. Furthermore, chronic atelectasis includes airlessness, infection, and possibly, scarring. Chest pain and difficulty breathing may also occur.

You can read more about this topic since only basic details are provided here.


1. Respiratory conditions need prompt and immediate intervention from professionals because they are vital for gas exchange and taking in needed oxygen.

2. Pneumothorax indicates the presence of air in the pleural cavity, usually caused by direct injury to the chest causing air leakage.

3. Atelectasis is considered as a lung collapse, wherein alveoli deflate and lose their air due to loss of elasticity or airway blockage.

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