Tension Pneumothorax: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Tension pneumothorax describes the situation in which air accumulates under pressure in the pleural space. The pleural space is the space between the lung and the chest wall. Tension pneumothorax poses a danger of a collapsed lung. This happens because air enters the pleural cavity and is trapped there during expiration (breathing out). Pressure builds up and compresses the organs of the chest including the lung and heart. Symptoms and signs include chest pain that has a sudden or sharp onset, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and rapid heart rate. Tension pneumothorax is a potentially life-threatening condition that medical professionals must treat as a medical emergency.

Causes of tension pneumothorax

Trauma to the chest, including a punctured lung, is the usual cause of a tension pneumothorax.

Other tension pneumothorax


COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the same as adult-onset asthma. See Answer

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Daley, Brian J. "What Is Tension Pneumothorax?" Medscape.com. Dec. 11, 2017. <https://www.medscape.com/answers/424547-67555/what-is-tension-pneumothorax>.