Spontaneous pneumothorax resulting in tension physiology

Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Jan;37(1):173.e1-173.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2018.09.036. Epub 2018 Sep 24.


Spontaneous pneumothorax (SP) is a relatively common pathology in emergency medicine; however, scant information is published regarding SPs developing tension physiology in the literature. Risk factors for spontaneous pneumothorax include smoking, family history, and underlying lung disease such as chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, among others. Treatment often involves conservative management, needle aspiration, catheter placement, or tube thoracostomy. Tension pneumothorax, however, is a life threatening condition requiring emergent intervention. Case reports have demonstrated large SPs with midline shift but without tension physiology as patients largely remained hemodynamically stable. We report the case of an 18-year-old male presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with a SP that rapidly developed tension physiology with mediastinal shift and hypotension resolved by needle decompression and CT placement.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chest Tubes
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needles
  • Pneumothorax / diagnostic imaging
  • Pneumothorax / etiology*
  • Pneumothorax / physiopathology
  • Pneumothorax / surgery*
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted