Learn About Infantile Pneumothorax

What is the definition of Infantile Pneumothorax?

Pneumothorax is the collection of air or gas in the space inside the chest around the lungs. This leads to lung collapse.

This article discusses pneumothorax in infants.

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What are the alternative names for Infantile Pneumothorax?

Pulmonary air leak; Pneumothorax - neonatal

What are the causes of Infantile Pneumothorax?

A pneumothorax occurs when some of the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in a baby's lung become overinflated and burst. This causes air to leak into the space between the lung and chest wall (pleural space).

The most common cause of pneumothorax is respiratory distress syndrome. This is a condition that occurs in babies who are born too early (premature).

  • The baby's lungs lack the slippery substance (surfactant) that helps them stay open (inflated). Therefore, the tiny air sacs are not able to expand as easily.
  • If the baby needs a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator), extra pressure on the baby's lungs, from the machine can sometimes burst the air sacs.

Meconium aspiration syndrome is another cause of pneumothorax in newborns.

  • Before or during birth, the baby may breathe in the first bowel movement, called meconium. This may obstruct the airways and cause breathing problems.

Other causes include pneumonia (infection of the lung) or underdeveloped lung tissue.

Less commonly, otherwise healthy infants can develop an air leak when they take the first few breaths after birth. This occurs because of the pressure needed to expand the lungs for the first time. There may be genetic factors which contribute to this problem.

What are the symptoms of Infantile Pneumothorax?

Many infants with pneumothorax do not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they can include:

  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis)
  • Fast breathing
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Grunting with breathing
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Use of additional chest and abdominal muscles to aid breathing (retractions)
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What are the current treatments for Infantile Pneumothorax?

Babies without symptoms may not need treatment. The health care team will monitor your baby's breathing, heart rate, oxygen level, and skin color. Supplemental oxygen will be provided if needed.

If your baby is having symptoms, the provider will place a needle and/or a thin tube called a catheter into the baby's chest to remove the air that has leaked into the chest space.

Since treatment will also depend on the lung issues that led to the pneumothorax, it may last for days to weeks.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Infantile Pneumothorax?

Some air leaks will go away within a few days without treatment. Infants who have the air removed with a needle or catheter often do well after treatment if there are no other lung problems.

What are the possible complications of Infantile Pneumothorax?

As air builds up in the chest, it can push the heart toward the other side of the chest. This puts pressure on both the lung that hasn't collapsed and the heart. This condition is called tension pneumothorax. It is a medical emergency because it can affect heart and lung function.

When should I contact a medical professional for Infantile Pneumothorax?

A pneumothorax is often discovered shortly after birth. Contact your provider if your infant has symptoms of pneumothorax.

How do I prevent Infantile Pneumothorax?

The providers in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) should watch your infant carefully for signs of an air leak.

What are the latest Infantile Pneumothorax Clinical Trials?
Point-of-Care Ultrasound for Pediatric Thoracic Trauma: A Multi-Institutional Trial
Summary: The objective of the proposed study is to investigate the diagnostic accuracy of ED POCUS in pediatric traumatic thoracic injuries including traumatic pneumothorax, hemothorax, lung contusion, rib fractures, and pulmonary edema (from submersion injury). This will be a prospective, multicenter, observational study of children 0-21 years of age presenting to the participating pediatric emergency dep...
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Pain Versus Gain: Multiport Versus Single-Port Thoracoscopic Surgery for Pediatric Pneumothorax a Case Series
Summary: Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) has become a standard of care in adults, pediatric surgeons have been slower to undertake this approach. There are limitations for working in children. The site of a chest tube becomes the working site for thoracoscopic surgery and the only scar. We propose this study to do a retrospective review comparing the conventional multiport thoracic surgery with...
What are the Latest Advances for Infantile Pneumothorax?
Neonatal Pneumothorax Outcome in Preterm and Term Newborns.
Summary: Neonatal Pneumothorax Outcome in Preterm and Term Newborns.
Interventional closure of a bronchopleural fistula in a 2 year old child with detachable coils.
Summary: Interventional closure of a bronchopleural fistula in a 2 year old child with detachable coils.
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A Rare Complication during Vaginal Delivery, Hamman's Syndrome: A Case Report and Systematic Review of Case Reports.
Summary: A Rare Complication during Vaginal Delivery, Hamman's Syndrome: A Case Report and Systematic Review of Case Reports.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: November 09, 2021
Published By: Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Crowley MA. Neonatal respiratory disorders. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 66.

Hallifax R, Rahman NM. Pneumothorax. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 110.

Winnie GB, Haider SK, Vemana AP, Lossef SV. Pneumothorax. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 439.