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Pediatric Cases of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Understanding Pediatric Cases of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Spontaneous pneumothorax happens when a child's lung collapses without any apparent cause (i.e. without any traumatic injuries or evidence of lung disease). 

Usually, kids will have “blisters” or “blebs” on the surface of the lung that can break and cause air to leak. The resulting lung collapse is what we call spontaneous pneumothorax. 

A spontaneous pneumothorax can be small or large. A small spontaneous pneumothorax tends to be minimal and may heal without treatment. A larger spontaneous pneumothorax can cause serious health risks and require the aid of a surgeon.

The exact cause of spontaneous pneumothorax will typically be unknown, though certain groups are at higher risks. Most cases tend to be in adolescent males that are tall and thin. Smoking, scuba diving, flying, and spending time at high altitudes can also affect a child's risk.

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Signs and Symptoms of Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Though spontaneous pneumothorax may present without severe complications, most patients will come in with shortness of breath or breathing issues. Patients may also experience tightness in their chest, an increased heart rate, fatigue, and a noticeable blue hue to their skin.

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Diagnosis for Spontaneous Pneumothorax at Golisano Children's Hospital of SWFL

Our team at Golisano Children’s Hospital of SWFL looks at three variables before diagnosing a child with a spontaneous pneumothorax.

  • History: We listen for concerns such as the sudden onset of chest pain and/or shortness of breath.
  • Stethoscope Exam: Our providers listen to your child’s lungs to get clues about the strength of their breath. Typically, the affected lung has lessened coming from it.
  • Chest X-ray: An x-ray will definitively show where the pneumothorax is present on the surface of your child’s lung. 

Any parent or guardian that notices their child is short of breath or has chest pain that worsens with breathing needs to get them help immediately. Call 911 and get them to their nearest Emergency Department.

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Treating Spontaneous Pneumothorax at Golisano Children’s Hospital

Our expert team of providers will recommend your child the best treatment based on their case. While a minor spontaneous pneumothorax generally poses little risk and typically only necessitates oxygen and hospital monitoring.

In cases of a large spontaneous pneumothorax that triggers severe symptoms, it may be necessary to insert a chest tube between the ribs to relieve pressure and enable the lung to re-expand safely. Following this, the medical team will monitor your child's condition and perform follow-up X-rays to decide if surgery is required.

Follow-Up Care for Spontaneous Pneumothorax

Patients should only make follow-up appointments with a surgeon at Golisano Children's Hospital of SWFL if they received in-patient treatment. Your child’s healthcare team will help you organize follow-up visits to maximize their health and wellness.

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