Atelectasis is the collapse of part or, much less commonly, all of a lung.
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Atelectasis is caused by a blockage of the air passages (bronchus or bronchioles) or by pressure on the outside of the lung.
Atelectasis is not the same as another type of collapsed lung called pneumothorax, which occurs when air escapes from the lung. The air then fills the space outside of the lung, between the lung and chest wall.
Atelectasis is common after surgery or in people who are or were in the hospital.
Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.