Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Before we get on to the fun stuff, I have to show you what Brian made me for dinner last night:

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Pan-seared scallops and roasted asparagus.

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They were delicious. Brian is getting pretty good at this. Maybe I will never heal...
Just kidding. I miss cooking!

The other day, I mentioned a little bit about what happened to me. It was a hug surprise. I figured this happened to people who were injured or had some kind of respiratory illness.

A collapsed lung is basically a hole in your lung that is leaking air into your chest cavity. As air fills the chest cavity, it begins to press against the lung and your lung is unable to inflate with air. Symptoms include shortness of breath or chest pain- and the pain can get pretty severe.

There are a few different types of collapsed lungs. A traumatic pneumothorax is when you are injured and your lung collapses as a result. A secondary spontaneous pneumothorax is when your lung collapses as a symptom of another illness, like cystic fibrosis or COPD.

The third type of pneumothorax is a primary spontaneous pneumothorax. These happen most often to smokers, tall males, and people in their twenties and there is no underlying cause. That's me. The number one question I have had from family and friends is, "What caused this?" and "Well, when will you find out what REALLY caused it?"

I think the answer is going to be that I will never know! Every single doctor I have spoken to (and that is a lot) has said that these just happen spontaneously to healthy people, usually in their 20s. I prefer this (lack of) explanation versus the secondary pneumothorax, because that would mean I have something chronically wrong with me.

How do you treat a collapsed lung? I only know about the spontaneous types of pneumothorax, but I would assume treatment for a traumata injury is different.

  1. Sometimes, there is no treatment required. If only a small amount of air has leaked out of the lung, it might just be left alone to heal.
  2. The next level up is to insert a tube into your chest cavity and suction out the air that has leaked into your chest so that the lung can inflate against the chest cavity and begin to heal. Then the tube is left in to prevent air from accumulating, and the lung usually heals itself in 3-5 days. 
  3. If that doesn't work, the next option is surgical. This is usually a laparoscopic surgery that will staple off the hole in the lung and help it attach to the chest cavity. 

There are a few intermediary steps that a doctor may try, but these are the most common. Right now I am somewhere between steps 2 and 3. My lung has until Friday to heal before moving on to step three.

There you have it! When I first received the diagnosis, I was really frustrated with a lack of clear information online. I sat down with my new pulmonologist (lung doc) yesterday and she talked to me about this for almost an hour.

And, finally, I leave you with my latest portrait.

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