Collapsed lung, also known as atelectasis, is a condition characterized by partial or total inability of a lung to inflate properly. It has a number of potential causes, including lung tissue compression (pneumothorax) and obstruction of the lung's bronchi, or air passages. Recovery from a collapsed lung varies with the initial source of the problem.
Recovering From Partial Lung Collapse
According to the New York Times Health Guide, if you have a partially collapsed lung that does not hinder your ability to get adequate air, your doctors may decide that the best course of treatment is to give the lung time to repair itself. If this is the case, your recovery will mainly consist of rest and the use of supplemental oxygen while the situation responsible for the collapse resolves. In some circumstances, small amounts of air or fluid causing pneumothorax can be removed with a needle. If this is true for you, you may be allowed to leave the hospital afterward and recover at your home. However, in cases where your lung collapses enough to restrict your airflow, you will require inpatient treatment. If your lung collapse is total, you will require emergency care.
Recovering From Total Lung Collapse
In the aftermath of treatment to re-inflate your lung, your doctor may suggest use of a device called an incentive spirometer. This specialized breathing device is designed to encourage progressive improvements in your lung function. To use a spirometer, you blow slowly and strongly into a tube attached to a readout that graphically represents your lung function. The readout also allows you to set a target for desired lung function that you strive to reach in the course of individual sessions with the device. At the end of each exhalation, you will hold your breath as long as you can then rest and start the next exhalation. Your doctor will determine how many repetitions of this exercise you perform at a time. Typically, you will do a session with the spirometer once an hour throughout the day. Afterward, you will be encouraged to cough and make sure your lungs are not clogged. You will also be encouraged to become physically active as soon as possible.
If you undergo surgery as part of your treatment for lung collapse, you will also need to recover from the effects of your operation. Your healing time will vary according to the particular procedure used to repair your lung. If your lung difficulties are related to the development of a tumor, surgery will possibly be followed with chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. Recovery in this case will be more difficult to judge, as your health and healing will likely be greatly affected by these treatments.
The Possibility of Recurrence
Be aware that part of your recovery may involve watching for signs of a recurring lung collapse. Factors that increase the possibility of recurrence include ongoing smoking and two or more previous collapses. You are also susceptible to recurrence if you are both tall and thin. Consult your doctor for further details of the recovery process.
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