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Types of pneumothorax

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Various classifications of pneumothorax are been used around the world.

The most common classification system divides pneumothorax into:

  • spontaneous (non-traumatic)
    • primary spontaneous - no predisposing lung disease or history of thoracic trauma
    • secondary spontaneous - underlying lung abnormality is present
  • traumatic
    • iatrogenic - caused by invasive medical procedures e.g. - central vein cannulation, pleural tap or biopsy, transbronchial biopsy, fine needle aspiration
    • accidental - following direct injury to the thorax e.g – penetrating chest injury, laceration of visceral pleura by a fractured rib (1,2)

Pneumothorax may also be classified as

  • simple pneumothorax - no shift of the heart or mediastinal structures
  • tension pneumothorax
  • open - “sucking” chest wound
  • closed - intact thoracic cage (2)


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