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Spontaneous pneumothorax in children

Ibrahim A Janahi, MD
Section Editor
Gregory Redding, MD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Pneumothorax in children is an unusual disorder that can be life-threatening. It may be idiopathic or associated with underlying pulmonary disease. The prognosis is usually good, although recurrence is frequent.


Pneumothorax is defined as a collection of air that is located within the thoracic cage between the visceral and parietal pleura (image 1). Air can enter the pleural space through a leak in either pleural surface. It may flow freely within the chest or be loculated by fibrous bands or other tissues. Rarely, air accumulates due to infection with gas-producing bacteria.

A pneumothorax is characterized as either spontaneous or traumatic. Traumatic pneumothorax is caused by blunt, crush, or penetrating trauma to the chest, by injury from a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure, or as a consequence of mechanical ventilation. (See "Initial evaluation and stabilization of children with thoracic trauma".)

Spontaneous pneumothorax, the subject of this topic review, occurs in the absence of any identified trauma. It is subdivided into primary and secondary types (table 1).

Primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) is diagnosed when a thorough investigation reveals no underlying lung disease that would predispose the individual to air leak.

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 03, 2017.
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