New insights and improved strategies for the management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax

Clin Respir J. 2019 Apr;13(4):195-201. doi: 10.1111/crj.12990. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


The pathophysiology and management of primary spontaneous pneumothorax (PSP) are a subject of debate. Despite advances in the understanding of its etiopathogenesis and improvements in its management, implementation in clinical practice is suboptimal. In this manuscript, we review the recent literature with a focus on PSP pathophysiology and management. Blebs and emphysema-like changes (ELC) are thought to contribute to the pathophysiology of PSP but cannot explain all cases. Recent studies emphasize the role of a diffuse porosity of the visceral pleura. Others found a relationship between smoking, occurrence of a PSP and bronchiolitis, which could be the initial pathological process leading to ELC development. Recent or ongoing studies challenge the need to systematically remove air from the pleural cavity of stable patients, introducing conservative management as a valuable therapeutic option. Evidence is growing in favour of needle aspiration instead of chest tube insertion, when air evacuation is needed. In addition, ambulatory management is considered as a successful approach in meta-analyses and is under exploration in a large randomized study. Because of a high recurrence rate of PSP, the benefit of performing a pleurodesis at first occurrence is under evaluation with interesting but not generalizable results. Better identification of 'at risk patients' is needed to improve the investigation strategy. Finally, recent publications confirm the efficacy, security and cost-effectiveness of graded talc poudrage pleurodesis to prevent PSP recurrence. In conclusion, PSP pathophysiology and management are still under investigation. The results of recently published and ongoing studies should be more widely implemented in clinical practice.

Keywords: management; physiopathology; pneumothorax; primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blister / complications
  • Bronchiolitis / complications
  • Chest Tubes / adverse effects
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needles / adverse effects
  • Paracentesis / methods
  • Pleura / anatomy & histology
  • Pleurodesis / methods
  • Pneumothorax / epidemiology
  • Pneumothorax / physiopathology*
  • Pneumothorax / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / complications
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Talc / administration & dosage
  • Talc / therapeutic use
  • Thoracic Surgery, Video-Assisted / methods
  • Thoracotomy / methods


  • Talc