The collapse of part or all of a lung by blockage of the air passages (bronchus or bronchioles), or by very shallow breathing . See also pneumothorax .

Alternative Names

Partial lung collapse

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Anesthesia, prolonged bedrest with few changes in position and shallow breathing , and underlying lung diseases are risk factors. Secretions that plug the airway, foreign objects in the airway (common in children), and tumors are obstruct the airway, leading to atelectasis. In an adult, small regions of atelectasis are usually not life-threatening, because unaffected parts of the lung compensate for the loss of function in the affected area. Large-scale atelectasis, especially in someone who has another lung disease or illness may be life-threatening. In a baby or infant, lung collapse due to a mucus obstruction or other causes can be life-threatening. Massive atelectasis may result in the collapse of a lung.

Signs and tests

  • a
  • chest X-ray
  • bronchoscopy
  • Treatment

  • The goal of treatment is to remove pulmonary (lung) secretions and re-expand the affected lung tissue.
  • The following treatments may be implemented:
  • positioning on the unaffected side to allow re-expansion of lung
  • removal of the obstruction, if present, by
  • bronchoscopy or another procedure
  • deep breathing exercises (incentive spirometry)
  • percussion
  • of the chest to loosen secretions (clapping)
  • positioning so that secretions drain by gravity where they can be coughed up (postural drainage)
  • treatment of
  • tumor or underlying condition, if present

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The collapsed lung usually re-inflates gradually once the obstruction has been removed, although some residual scarring or damage may be present.


    Pneumonia may develop rapidly after atelectasis.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if symptoms indicate atelectasis may be present.


    Keep small objects out of the reach of young children. Maintain deep breathing after anesthesia and in those bedridden for long periods. Encourage people who are sick or who have just had an operation not to lie in bed continuously.

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