Treatment of a collapsed lung (atelectasis) depends on the cause and severity of the collapse.
Atelectasis may be due to compression of the lung tissue or obstruction of the air passages (bronchi). The collapse may affect only a small part of the lung or the whole lung. Pneumothorax and pleural effusion can cause the lung to partially collapse without closing off any of the airway. A partially collapsed lung may slowly re-expand without treatment. But a severe collapse of a whole lung can be life-threatening and requires emergency medical attention.
Treatment of atelectasis may include:
- Removing obstructions from the airway by suctioning mucus or bronchoscopy
- Performing deep-breathing exercises (incentive spirometry)
- Clapping (percussion) on the chest to loosen mucus
- Positioning the body so that the head is lower than the chest (postural drainage) to drain mucus
If an underlying condition such as a tumor is the cause of atelectasis, treatment will also be directed at managing the condition. In the case of a tumor, for instance, treatment may include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy drugs.
If you experience the signs and symptoms of atelectasis, including shortness of breath, chest pain and cough, seek emergency medical attention.