Posted: March 24th, 2023


Why COPD Patients are at Higher Risk for a Collapsed Lung (Pneumothorax)

Collapsed lung (pneumothorax) is a condition characterized by gas in the lungs, particularly in the pleural space. Pneumothorax is a critical health problem globally, with huge health care costs and high morbidity. The disease can be fatal if not effectively treated and managed. The most effective way of implementing a successful intervention is to understand the underlying cause of pneumothorax. Current research focuses on effective ways to treat and manage the condition by concentrating on risk factors (Bintcliffe & Maskell, 2014). While various risk factors can affect the lungs to an extent of collapse, some patients are at a higher risk, especially those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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Pneumothorax results from hyperinflated alveolus’ rapture and leaking of air into the adjacent spaces and tissues. The disorder reveals that the risk factors for the condition are serious lung diseases that affect alveoli. One such condition is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that predisposes the patient to hyperinflation. COPD causes high transpulmonary pressure, high intrinsic PEEP, and high tidal volumes that cause the risk of collapsed lung (George Ioannidis et al., 2015). Under this condition, air is retained in the lungs because inspired air cannot be expired effectively. Airway resistance is caused by the increase in airway pressure, which increases due to hyperinflation. A high inspiratory flow rate and high airway resistance prevent air from reaching the alveoli.

The condition occurs in COPD patients since the high pressure and airwave resistance create hyperinflation. Balancing respiratory capacity as well as workload becomes a challenge, especially for patients with COPD. Amid any disturbance of such equilibrium, the patient may be exposed to collapsed lungs, leading to barotrauma. For example, an infection that creates acute pathology can increase the rate of airway obstruction, leading to pneumothorax. The changes can cause a reduction in ventilation that continues to increase hyperinflation. The situation suggests a danger of alveolar injury (George Ioannidis et al., 2015). Hence, such injury easily results in a collapsed lung.

Another risk factor for a collapsed lung resulting from COPD occurs during the treatment of the disease because the condition is caused by a direct or indirect chest injury. During the treatment process, a COPD patient might suffer from iatrogenic pneumothorax. The damage mostly transpires when a patient is receiving treatment or a medical procedure to treat COPD, either inadvertently or deliberately. Pneumothorax can take the form of barotrauma, which is the injury to the lung resulting from airway pressure that occurs during mechanical ventilation to patients with breathing difficulties, such as those suffering from COPD. Invasive ventilation and other similar procedures can collapse the lungs in such patients (Papagiannis et al., 2015). For example, when the injury occurs accidentally as a medical procedure complication, pneumothorax becomes a serious problem that might create the need for additional treatment and management.

As it is evident from the discussion, although various underlying causes of a collapsed lung exist, COPD is one of the most common medical conditions that increase the risk. The condition occurs when air fills the space between the lung and the chest after escaping from the lung. The air builds up to create pressure, which may collapse the lungs. COPD increases the pressure and the restriction of airways, which initiates pneumothorax and prevents the lungs from performing optimally, leading to collapse.

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