The unexpandable lung

John T Huggins, Peter Doelken, Steven A Sahn
F1000 Medicine Reports 2010 October 21, 2: 77
Unexpandable lung is the inability of the lung to expand to the chest wall allowing for normal visceral and parietal pleural apposition. It is the direct result of either pleural disease, endobronchial obstruction resulting in lobar collapse, or chronic atelectasis. Unexpandable lung occurring as a consequence of active or remote pleural disease may present as a post-thoracentesis hydropneumothorax or an effusion that cannot be completely drained because of the development of anterior chest pain. Pleural manometry is useful for identifying unexpandable lung during initial pleural drainage. Unexpandable lung occurring as a consequence of active or remote pleural disease may be separated into two distinct clinical entities termed trapped lung and lung entrapment. Trapped lung is a diagnosis proper and is caused by the formation of a fibrous visceral pleural peel (in the absence of malignancy or active pleural inflammation). The mechanical effect of the pleural peel constitutes the primary clinical problem. Lung entrapment may result from a visceral pleural peel secondary to active pleural inflammation, infection, or malignancy. In these cases, the underlying malignant or inflammatory condition is the primary clinical problem, which may or may not be complicated by unexpandable lung due to visceral pleural involvement. The recognition of trapped lung and lung entrapment as related, but distinct, clinical entities has direct consequences on clinical management. In our practice, pleural manometry is routinely performed during therapeutic thoracentesis and is useful for identification of unexpandable lung and has allowed us to understand the mechanisms surrounding a post-thoracentesis pneumothorax.

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