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Recurrent Pneumothorax: Causes, Prevention, and Management

Pneumothorax affects 18-28/100,000 cases per year for men and 1.2-6/100,000 for women, according to studies. The condition is commonly termed a “collapsed lung,” which happens when air collects outside the lung, imposing pressure on the lungs, resulting in the collapse.

The most common type of pneumothorax is spontaneous pneumothorax, which occurs without an obvious etiology. This means that, in most cases, the cause is unknown. It is further classified into primary and secondary pneumothorax.

This article will discuss more recurrent pneumothorax (with respect to spontaneous pneumothorax), its causes, prevention, and management.

What is Recurrent Pneumothorax?

As discussed in the introduction, Pneumothorax is the medical terminology for collapsed lung/s. When the condition happens in recurrence, that’s termed recurrent pneumothorax.

Recurrent pneumothorax primarily happens with respect to spontaneous pneumothorax and is often more common in thin, adolescent males compared to women.

What are the Causes of Recurrent Pneumothorax?

Much like spontaneous pneumothorax, the causes of recurrent pneumothorax in most patients are unknown.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t definitive answers about the risk factors and the triggers contributing to recurrent pneumothorax causes.

Some of the most potential risk factors are:

  • Younger age
  • Male individuals
  • Low BMI (<18.5) – very tall people
  • Smoking history
  • Blebs or bullae in lungs
  • Size of pneumothorax

Surprisingly, studies indicate that around 70% of cases of recurrent pneumothorax happen due to residual or incompletely excised blebs in the patient’s lungs.

Recurrent Pneumothorax: Causes, Prevention, and Management

How is Recurrent Pneumothorax Treated and Managed?

Patients with a history of recurrent pneumothorax are often referred to surgeons for a more comprehensive and effective treatment plan.

The aim of any surgical intervention for recurrent pneumothorax management is to:

  • Treat the underlying pathology or risk factor contributing to the recurrence of the pneumothorax
  • Prevent recurrence
  • Improve the patient’s quality of life

There are different types of surgical interventions that help in treating recurrent pneumothorax, both invasive and minimally invasive procedures.

Dr. Arvind Kumar, a leading Chest Surgery and Lung Transplantation specialist at Medanta offers comprehensive surgical procedures to treat issues surrounding the recurrence.

Following are some of the most commonly used surgical procedures for recurrent pneumothorax:


VATS bullectomy with pleurodesis

VATS or Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery bullectomy is a surgical procedure that identifies and stops the air leak in the chest cavity. This is one of the most effective minimally invasive (key-hole) method to prevent risks of recurrent pneumothorax. Pleurodesis is a procedure that involves direct attachment of the lungs to the chest wall, obliterating the pleural space in between. VATS Bullectomy is the commonest procedure done for patients with primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

Besides surgical interventions, if the patient is unwilling or too frail to undergo surgery often undergoes chemical pleurodesis instead. The doctor is the one who determines the ideal route of treatment for the patient.

Why is VATS a better Line of Treatment for Recurrent Pneumothorax?

Over the last two decades, VATS has become a leading choice of surgical intervention and an effective alternative to open thoracotomy for treating recurrent pneumothorax in patients.

Some of the advantages of VATS include the following:

  • Less intra-operative blood loss and less postoperative pain,
  • Shorter lengths of hospital stay
  • Less post-operative complications
  • Less scarring
  • Fewer wound complications

If you have suffered from pneumothorax or have a history of experiencing recurrent pneumothorax, being aware of your ideal surgical options and line of treatment is crucial.


Risks of recurrent pneumothorax should be paid close attention to. If you are at risk of developing this complication, consider discussing your issues with a leading surgeon like Dr. Arvind Kumar to better mitigate the risks with surgical interventions.

For more details about diagnosing and managing recurrent pneumothorax at Medanta, visit


Recurrent pneumothorax, like the standard ones, is diagnosed using a chest x-ray. Besides that, other imaging techniques like CT scan is also helpful for the diagnosis.

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