COPD and Atelectasis

Related Conditions

Lung Disease Induced Atelectasis

The symptoms of lung disease worsen over time. Many people suffering from a progressive disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), see their flare-ups increase in frequency and intensity as they age. Surgery is occasionally a necessity for lung disease, which poses increased risks. One particular risk is atelectasis, or simply put, the collapsing of a lung. COPD and atelectasis symptoms can feed off of one another, causing the two to occur together often. Atelectasis is categorized by the collapsing of the small air sacs positioned in the bottom and back of the lungs. When these air sacs collapse, the airflow in and out of the lungs is greatly restricted. Typically, this occurs when the air sacs in question is underutilized from shallow breathing.

Can COPD cause Atelectasis

Symptoms of Atelectasis

The symptoms of atelectasis are actually more subtle than most would assume. For someone with a lung disease, it can seem as though a flare-up is occurring when atelectasis kicks in. Most people have difficulty breathing and tend to breathe in a rapid, shallow motion. Also, a bout of coughing may occur do to excessive mucus build-up. In some cases, the patient will develop a low-grade fever in response to fatigue.

What Causes Atelectasis

There are a variety of ways that atelectasis can develop. The most common cases are found to occur in a patient already admitted into the hospital. Ventilators can heavily contribute to the onset of atelectasis. Typically, breathing is shallow during the use of a ventilator. This causes a lack of use of the alveoli near the bottom and the back of the lungs, which can induce atelectasis. The other major cause of atelectasis is blockage of airways. This can happen from mucus build-up or other lung disease symptoms, the presence of a foreign object in the airway, or an abnormal growth.

Treatment for Atelectasis

Since most cases of atelectasis occur while the patient is in the hospital, treatment typically happens quickly. The introduction of specific medications like bronchodilators that open the airways and mucus thinners like Dornase Alfa can help. Actions can be taken to reverse the lung collapse, to include:

  • Heavy Coughing – you may be able to clear the blockage of mucus through deep coughing.
  • Chest Compression – by lightly pushing on the chest, you may be able to move the mucus build-up enough to re-expand the lungs.
  • Breathing Exercises – focused breathing and the use of an incentive spirometer can help inflate the area of the lung that is closed.
  • Postal Drainage – by positioning your body so that your head is lower than your chest, it is possible to cause the mucus in your body to drain away from the lungs.
  • Surgery – typically an approach taken in cases that the blockage is caused by something foreign in the airway, surgery can be a helpful solution.

Atelectasis is a very serious complication. If you believe that your lung has collapsed contact your physician immediately or call emergency services. If you have a lung disease, speak with your physician about what you should do if atelectasis does. Having a plan can greatly increase your ability to treat the condition. If you or a love one is interested in finding out if stem cells could treat your lung disease, please contact one of our patient care coordinators today at (800) 729-3065 to schedule a free consultation.

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