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It can cause past deaths and severe respiratory problems due to lung dysfunctions. Lung health is crucial for a better quality of life; therefore, we do various tests even if there are no symptoms.

One of the common diseases within the scope of lung disease is Atelectasis. So what is Atelectasis, and what are the diagnosis and treatment methods?

What is Atelectasis?

Atelectasis is when all or a part of the lungs shrinks by losing air. It can occur in one lobe of the lung, or it can happen suddenly in both lobes.

It can develop depending on different anatomical reasons. The event of Atelectasis is usually a physical occlusion. An accidental blockage of the trachea, bronchioles, bronchi, or alveoli prevents the airflow, and thus Atelectasis develops.

Air entrapment between the chest wall and the lungs can also cause Atelectasis. It is possible to have problems during physical activities and experience severe respiratory problems at the location where Atelectasis occurs.

What are the Causes of Atelectasis?

It may develop due to hereditary or acquired reasons. The most common causes of Atelectasis are listed as follows:

  • Tumors that cause external pressure to the airways or lungs,
  • A foreign body or mucus that has escaped into the lungs through inhalation,
  • Pneumonia,
  • Fluid or air leakage between the lung and the chest wall named pleural effusion or pneumothorax respectively,
  • Tissue injuries in the lungs, pulmonary fibrosis,
  • Surfactant deficiency in newborns,
  • Surgery,
  • Tuberculosis or similar lung infections,
  • Receiving oxygen support for a long time,
  • Obesity and advanced age,
  • Smoking cigarettes or identical tobacco products,
  • Medications.

Atelectasis may develop due to all these causes or due to other diseases not included in this list.

What Are the Symptoms of Atelectasis?

Atelectasis may commonly manifest as shortness of breath, rapid breathing, hunger for air, wheezing, or prolonged chronic cough. Apart from all these, other symptoms that we may encounter are as follows:

  • Pain that resembles a stabbing in the chest when coughing or breathing deeply,
  • Due to the decrease in the amount of oxygen, feeling of pulse, and change in skin color to purple,
  • High fever due to impaired lung function,
  • Akciğer fonksiyonlarının bozulması sebebiyle ortaya çıkan yüksek ateş,
  • Inflammatory sputum discharge due to pneumonia.

Such complaints indicate a severe problem in the lungs and require immediate intervention. Therefore, in cases where such a symptom occurs, applying to the nearest health institution is helpful.

Types of Atelectasis

Today, there are 11 different known types of Atelectasis. We can list all these types of Atelectasis as follows:

  • Congenital Atelectasis : occurs due to congenital anomalies in the bronchioles or bronchi.
  • Obstructive Atelectasis: occurs due to the accumulation of mucus or inflammation. It may be due to stenosis after surgery, or it may develop due to bronchial tumors or foreign bodies escaping into the lungs.
  • Passive Atelectasis: occurs with the accumulation of air or fluid in the pleural space.
  • Acceleration Atelectasis: It occurs when the sound barrier is exceeded during flights.
  • Adhesive Atelectasis: It occurs due to being connected to a breathing device for a long time or due to pressurized oxygen treatments.
  • Contraction Atelectasis : occurs with the accumulation of fibrous tissue in the lung.
  • Acute Atelectasis: occurs after conditions such as surgery or lung injuries.
  • Chronic Atelectasis: It occurs due to pressure-causing tumors or chronic pleural inflammation.
  • Neonatal Atelectasis: It occurs with surfactant deficiency seen in preterm babies.
  • Subsegmental Atelectasis : occurs due to decreased air entering and leaving the alveoli.
  • Dependent Atelectasis: It occurs due to physical obstructions.

What are Diagnostic Methods for Atelectasis?

We diagnose Atelectasis according to the patient's complaints. The first methods for diagnosis are the patient's history and physical examination. Diagnostic methods used to clarify the diagnosis are as follows:

  • Chest x-ray,
  • CT (Computed tomography),
  • bronchoscopy,
  • Arterial blood gas.

What are Treatment Methods for Atelectasis?

The treatment of Atelectasis primarily aims to eliminate the causes that cause Atelectasis. When deciding on the treatment method, the determining factor is how much of the lung is Atelectasic and whether it causes various complications.

The methods that we use in the treatment of Atelectasis are listed as follows:

  • If a foreign body or mucus obstructs the airways, we aim to clear the obstruction and open the airways.
  • Inhalation medications and coughing exercises can help treat Atelectasis.
  • If there is a lung infection, antibiotic therapy is administered.
  • We can apply Drainage treatment if Atelectasis is due to problems such as pneumothorax.
  • Surgical intervention is performed if we cannot refill the deflated lung area with air despite all interventions.

Depending on the level of Atelectasis, the physician decides the treatment. Seeing a doctor at the slightest symptom or suspicion can be lifesaving.

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