Atelectasis Vs Pneumothorax: Know the Differences

Atelectasis Vs Pneumothorax: Know the Differences

Atelectasis vs Pneumothorax: Although the lung collapses in both atelectasis and pneumothorax, their causes differ: When an airway is obstructed, air cannot enter a portion of the lung, resulting in atelectasis. Tumor pressure, a foreign item, or mucous accumulation can all cause this. The lung tissue that is impacted then collapses. When air seeps into the area between the lung and the chest wall, the lung compresses and collapses, resulting in pneumothorax. A rip in the lung tissue, a chest injury, or specific medical treatments can all be the cause of this. Both disorders can cause fast breathing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. The extent of the collapse and its underlying cause determine the course of treatment.


  • Part or all of a lung deflates due to trapped air.
  • Cause: Blockage in airways (mucus, tumor) or external pressure.
  • Symptoms: Difficulty breathing, sharp chest pain, rapid breathing.
  • Treatment: Depends on severity, may involve breathing exercises, chest tube, bronchoscopy.


  • Air leaks into space between the lung and chest wall, compressing it.
  • Cause: Trauma, spontaneous (weak lung tissue), medical procedures.
  • Symptoms: Sudden sharp chest pain, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing.
  • Treatment: Chest tube to drain air, surgery in severe cases.

Difference Between Atelectasis and Pneumothorax

Atelectasis and Pneumothorax are both medical conditions affecting the lungs, but they differ in their causes, symptoms, and treatments. Highlighting the difference between Atelectasis and Pneumothorax. 





Collapse or closure of part of the lung

Presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity


Obstructive, compression, or adenotative

Spontaneous or traumatic


Difficulty breathing, chest pain

Sudden chest pain, shortness of breath


Chest X-rays, CT scans

Physical exam, chest X-rays, CT scans


Address underlying cause, respiratory therapy

Needle aspiration, chest tube insertion


Pneumonia, respiratory failure

Tension pneumothorax, life-threatening

Occurrence Post-Surgery

Common, especially with general anesthesia


Type of Collapse

Partial or complete

Partial or complete

Age Group Affected

Children, older adults

Varied, more common in certain populations



Possible, especially without treatment

Browse Best Scrubs Collection

What is atelectasis?

A lung disease called atelectasis causes one or more lung collapses. This is the result of the lungs' alveoli, or air sacs, losing air and deflating. A foreign item, tumor, or mucus blockage in the airways might all be the cause of it. Additionally, it may occur if there is pressure outside the lung, such as from a tumor or pleural effusion (fluid around the lung).

Key Features of Atelectasis:

  • Atelectasis is a condition where part or all of a lung collapses. This happens when the alveoli (air sacs) in the lung lose their air.
  • Causes: Blockage of an airway by mucus, a tumor, or a foreign object; pressure on the lung from a tumor, fluid, or scar tissue; not using your lungs fully after surgery or anesthesia.
  • Symptoms: Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest pain, cough, fever.
  • Treatment: Treatment depends on the cause of the atelectasis and how severe it is. In some cases, no treatment is needed. In other cases, treatment may include breathing exercises, chest physiotherapy, medications, or surgery.

Explore All Women's Scrub

What is pneumothorax?

A pneumothorax, sometimes referred to as a collapsed lung, is a medical ailment in which air escapes into the area between the chest wall and the lung. Breathing may become challenging due to lung compression from this air. A chest injury such as a rib fracture or puncture wound might result in pneumothorax. Additionally, it can occur on its own, particularly in tall, thin smokers.

 Key Features of Pneumothorax:

  • Pneumothorax is a condition where air leaks into the space between the lung and the chest wall. This causes the lung to collapse.
  • Causes: Injury to the chest wall, such as from a puncture wound or rib fracture; a ruptured bleb (a small, abnormal air sac in the lung); certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Symptoms: Sudden, sharp chest pain on one side, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, anxiety, cough.
  • Treatment: Treatment depends on the size of the pneumothorax and how severe it is. In some cases, no treatment is needed. In other cases, treatment may include inserting a chest tube to drain the air, or surgery to close the leak.

Shop Best Lab Coats from Here!

Similarities Between Atelectasis and Pneumothorax

  • Lung function problems are involved in both.
  • They may result in breathing problems and chest pain, among other respiratory symptoms.
  • Imaging tests like CT scans or chest X-rays are often used in the diagnosis process.
  • Medical intervention is necessary for the treatment of both disorders.
  • If treatment is not received, complications from both disorders may become life-threatening.
  • They might happen on their own, as a result of trauma or medical treatments, or both.
  • Both conditions can strike anyone at any age, but they are more common in specific groups, such as tall, thin people with pneumothorax and older folks with atelectasis.
  • To stop more complications, they both need to be managed and given immediate medical attention.
  • To address respiratory issues, both could need respiratory support.
  • Both illnesses may recur, particularly if the underlying risk factors are not managed.

Although both pneumothorax and athelectasis result in a collapsed lung, the causes are different: athelectasis is caused by trapped air inside the lung owing to obstruction, which causes the lung to contract; pneumothorax is caused by air leaking into the surrounding space and forcing the lung outward. Depending on the underlying cause, both may elicit symptoms comparable to chest discomfort and dyspnea, but they will require different treatments.

Order the best Jogger Scrub from here!

Check out More Articles
Difference Between Cartilage and Bone
Difference Between Endocrine and Exocrine Glands
Difference Between Cell Wall and Cell Membrane


What is atelectasis, and how does it differ from pneumothorax?

Atelectasis refers to the collapse or closure of a part of the lung, while pneumothorax involves the presence of air or gas in the pleural cavity, leading to lung collapse.

What are the main causes of atelectasis and pneumothorax?

Atelectasis can be caused by airway blockages, pressure on the lung, or insufficient surfactant production. Pneumothorax can occur spontaneously or due to trauma, leading to the entry of air into the pleural space.

What symptoms are associated with atelectasis and pneumothorax?

Atelectasis symptoms include difficulty breathing and chest pain, while pneumothorax symptoms include sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.

How are atelectasis and pneumothorax diagnosed?

Atelectasis is diagnosed through chest X-rays or CT scans, whereas pneumothorax is diagnosed through physical examination, chest X-rays, or CT scans.

What treatment options are available for atelectasis and pneumothorax?

Atelectasis treatment often involves addressing the underlying cause and respiratory therapy. Pneumothorax treatment may include needle aspiration or chest tube insertion to remove air from the pleural space.

Other Article

 Knya - Vaccination Strategies for Different Age Groups

Vaccination Strategies for Different Age Groups...

Giridhar Kulkarni

People throughout their lives need different types of vaccines. There are different types of vaccines given to different age groups.  If you’re curious to learn what those vaccines are, then you’re...

Proper Guide on First Aid Skills

Basic First Aid Skills Everyone Should Know: A ...

Giridhar Kulkarni

Emergencies can occur anytime, anyplace. The first few moments of an emergency are very critical as they determine the life and death of a person.  So, whenever you’re in a...

Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: Enhancing Diagnostics and Treatment Decision-Making

Artificial Intelligence in Medicine: Enhancing ...

Giridhar Kulkarni

In medicine there can be risks of human errors, there can be risks of bad calculation of data, and there can be risks of wrong diagnosis given to the patient. ...

Knya Scrubs Uniforms

Nutrition and Aging: Addressing the Unique Need...

Giridhar Kulkarni

Nutrition for the elderly is very important. If you as a medical professional are dealing with elderly patients, then it’s time to learn about their nutritional needs. [image_banner]  Do you...

Yoga for Doctors

The Benefits of Yoga for Doctors: Physical and ...

Abhijeet Kaji

Yoga has proven to be powerful for a lot of people worldwide. Yoga is a type of movement exercise that combines cardiovascular and strength exercises. You cannot ignore yoga for...

Alternative Medicine Doctors

Exploring Alternative Medicine: What You Need t...

Abhijeet Kaji

If you’re a medical professional, chances are you rarely know about alternative medicine. Many alternative medicine doctors are becoming famous for doing alternative therapies for their patients. As a medical...