Bulla Vs Pneumothorax: Know the Differences

Bulla Vs Pneumothorax

Bulla Vs Pneumothorax: Bulla and Pneumothorax involve air pockets in the chest, but with key differences. Bullae are thin-walled sacs within lung tissue, while Pneumothorax describes air trapped between the lung and chest wall, collapsing part of the lung. Bulla Vs Pneumothorax, While large bullae can mimic a pneumothorax on X-rays, a CT scan reveals the crucial distinction - a pneumothorax shows air completely surrounding the lung, while a bulla has air only within its own sac. Understanding this difference is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

blog banner blog banner

Difference Between Bulla and Pneumothorax

Bulla and pneumothorax are both medical terms related to the respiratory system, specifically concerning the lungs. Here are their definitions and some key differences between the two:





Air-filled space within lung tissue

Collection of air in the pleural cavity


Structural abnormality

Medical condition


Develops due to alveolar wall destruction

Can be spontaneous or traumatic


Typically larger than 1 cm in diameter

Size varies; can be small or large


Seen on imaging (e.g., CT scan)

Detected on imaging (e.g., chest X-ray)


Often asymptomatic

Symptoms may include chest pain and dyspnea


May lead to pneumothorax if ruptured

Can lead to tension pneumothorax if untreated


Observation or surgical intervention

Chest tube insertion or surgery

Risk Factors

Smoking, lung diseases

Trauma, lung diseases, medical procedures


May recur if underlying cause is not treated

Recurrence possible, especially in smokers


Both involve abnormal accumulation of air

Can lead to respiratory distress

Browse Best Scrubs Collection

What is Bulla?

A bulla is an air-filled pouch that forms within the lung tissue, typically as a result of damage from emphysema or other lung diseases. They are usually larger than 1 centimeter in diameter and have thin, fragile walls. Bullas can cause a multiple problems, including shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing. In some cases, they can rupture and cause a pneumothorax, which is a collection of air between the lung and the chest wall. 

Key Features of Bulla:

  • A large, abnormal air-filled sac within the lung tissue. Think of it like a bubble blown within the lung itself.
  • Can range from pea-sized to grapefruit-sized, causing lung compression and impacting breathing.
  • Symptoms: Often asymptomatic, especially smaller ones. Larger bullae may cause shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, or fatigue.
  • Causes: Often linked to smoking, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, or cystic fibrosis.

blog banner blog banner

What is Pneumothorax?

Pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, occurs when air escapes into the area between the lung and the chest wall. This air leak may cause the lung to collapse, making it difficult to breathe. Injury, medical treatments, and underlying lung illnesses such as bullae can all result in pneumothorax.

Key Features of Pneumothorax:

  • An abnormal collection of air between the lung and chest wall, causing the lung to collapse partially or completely. Imagine air leaking into the space outside the lung, like a deflated balloon.
  • Varies depending on the cause and severity, causing significant breathing difficulties in severe cases.
  • Symptoms: Sudden sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, chest tightness, cough, and bluish skin (cyanosis).
  • Causes: Can be spontaneous (no clear cause) or traumatic (injury to the chest wall). Spontaneous pneumothorax is more common in young, tall, thin individuals with underlying lung conditions. Traumatic pneumothorax can occur due to chest injuries, medical procedures, or barotrauma. 

Shop Best Lab Coats from Here!

Similarities Between Bulla and Pneumothorax

  • Bulla and pneumothorax are both conditions characterized by pulmonary anomalies.
  • They can both cause respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath.
  • Both may want medical attention, depending on their intensity and symptoms.
  • Both illnesses are diagnosed using imaging techniques including chest X-rays or CT scans.
  • Bulla and pneumothorax can both be related with underlying lung diseases or conditions like emphysema or COPD.

While both Bulla and Pneumothorax include air in the chest cavity, they are two separate disorders with important characteristics. A bulla is an air-filled pocket within damaged lung tissue that is commonly caused by emphysema or other lung disorders. It remains contained by lung tissue and does not collapse adjacent lung segments. In contrast, a pneumothorax occurs when air enters the gap between the lung and the chest wall, causing the lung to collapse partially or entirely. This can occur as a result of injury, underlying lung illness, or spontaneously without a known reason. Symptoms such as abrupt chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and quick breathing can indicate either illness, but identifying between them is critical. Chest X-rays are frequently used as an initial diagnostic tool, although a CT scan or ultrasound may be required for a final diagnosis. Treatment also varies; tiny, asymptomatic Bullae may require monitoring, but bigger or symptomatic examples may demand surgical surgery. Depending on the severity, pneumothorax may entail the placement of a chest tube to drain the air or surgery to plug the leak. Understanding the distinctive characteristics of each ailment is critical for accurate diagnosis, treatment, and best patient outcomes.

Check out More Articles
Difference Between Tendon and Ligament
Difference Between Seizure and Epilepsy
Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism


What is the difference between bulla and pneumothorax?

A bulla is a large air-filled space within the lung parenchyma, often caused by the destruction of lung tissue. On the other hand, a pneumothorax is the presence of air in the pleural space, leading to lung collapse. While a bulla is a structural abnormality within the lung, a pneumothorax is a condition where air leaks into the pleural space outside the lung.

What are the similarities between bullae and pneumothorax?

Yes, bullae can predispose individuals to pneumothorax. If a bulla ruptures, it can cause air to escape into the pleural space, resulting in a pneumothorax.

What are the symptoms of a bulla versus a pneumothorax?

Symptoms of a bulla may not be present until it ruptures, but can include shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. Symptoms of a pneumothorax include sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, and in severe cases, cyanosis.

How are bullae and pneumothorax diagnosed?

Both conditions can be diagnosed through imaging studies such as chest X-rays or CT scans. Chest X-rays can reveal the presence of a bulla or signs of a collapsed lung in the case of a pneumothorax.

What are the treatment options for bullae and pneumothorax?

Treatment for bullae may include observation if asymptomatic, but if symptomatic or at risk of rupture, surgical intervention like bullectomy may be necessary. Pneumothorax treatment varies based on severity but can include observation, chest tube insertion to remove air, or surgery.