Lung Rupture

Difficulty breathing through to shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing – these are typical signs of a ruptured lung. A rupture in the tissues of the lung is usually the result of external violence, diving, or a lung disease. If a lung rupture is suspected, a specialist doctor should be consulted immediately – either an airway expert ( pneumologist ) or a lung specialist ( pulmonologist ).

Lung Rupture

What is a lung rupture?

According to Foodanddrinkjournal, a lung rupture refers to an injury to the lungs, which can lead to complications. There is a tear in the tissue of the lung, which causes air to escape from the lung. At the same time, air enters the lungs through the pleura gap, the gap between the lung membrane and the pleura, which is why the negative pressure in the organ falls.

Breathing causes considerable problems – a collapsed lung or so-called pneumothorax is the result. This occurs when the lungs or pleura are injured. and can even be life-threatening.

If a lung rupture is suspected, medical advice and appropriate help should always be sought. The doctor primarily provides ventilation with oxygen and takes measures against the urge to cough. In serious cases, he performs air suction or places a drain.


It has been proven that in a healthy person it is impossible to intentionally cause a lung rupture. But as far as the exact cause of a lung rupture is concerned – the final clarification is still pending.

A ruptured lung is essentially based on three causes: In addition to a disease of the lungs, these are external violence and diving. The lung diseases that promote a lung rupture include pneumonia and pulmonary tuberculosis as well as pleurisy and lung cancer. An external force that can lead to a lung rupture consists of pressure shocks to the chest (e.g. in the case of explosions) while the mouth is closed at the same time.

Divers can rupture their lungs as a result of ascending too quickly. This occurs when the increasing air in the lungs cannot escape when the external pressure falls. In this case we speak of air trapping. Also, a cramping of the glottis that occurs when surfacing and caused by inhaling drops of water can lead to an injury to the lungs because the breathing air cannot escape.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

A ruptured lung initially manifests itself as acute shortness of breath. Those affected suddenly have difficulty breathing, breathe faster than usual and usually also suffer a panic attack. In addition to the breathing difficulties that occur independently of physical exertion, there is usually also sudden chest pain, which is usually limited to one side.

When you take deep breaths, you get stabbing pains in the lungs that only subside slowly. Deep breaths are often no longer possible because the pain is too intense. If not treated promptly, breathing air can enter the pulmonary veins and cause an embolism. In extreme cases, this cuts off the blood supply to the brain, the spinal cord or the coronary vessels.

This can lead to neurological deficits, paralysis and cardiovascular problems, including heart failure or circulatory collapse. Accompanying this, the organs and individual systems in the body fail. Blood pressure usually rises and heart rate increases. As a result of a lung rupture, inner restlessness usually occurs, combined with sleep disturbances and increased irritability. In the course of the disease, muscle activity initially fails, before multiple organ failure occurs and the patient eventually dies.

Diagnosis & History

A ruptured lung does not always have to be associated with specific symptoms – it can even progress without symptoms. But this is the exception rather than the rule. In addition to chest pain, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties usually indicate a ruptured lung. Sudden shortness of breath combined with rapid breathing despite physical rest as well as pain on one side of the body in the chest area and coughing are unmistakable signs of a ruptured lung. In the case of a ruptured lung, deep breathing is usually hardly possible – the pain is usually too great. When you exert yourself, the pain increases.

In extreme cases, air bubbles can block the blood flow in the arteries of the spinal cord, in the coronary arteries and also in embolic occlusions in the brain. The result is a collapse of the lungs with pneumothorax. Depending on the course of the disease, the lung rupture can lead to respiratory failure, which is why there is ultimately a risk of death.

If a lung rupture is suspected, immediate action is indicated. Both a pulmonologist (airway expert) and a pulmonologist (lung specialist) can help. By listening and tapping on the upper body of the person concerned, the doctor is able to detect any damage to the lungs with great certainty. If there is no breathing noise and the chest sounds hollow when tapped, this indicates a ruptured lung.

An X-ray then confirms the suspicion. In the case of smaller cracks, an ultrasound also provides further information. A computed tomography – albeit very costly and time-consuming – completes the picture. With their help, not only the actual injury can be identified, but also other wounds and diseases associated with the lung rupture.


A ruptured lung is a very serious condition. It must be examined and treated immediately by a doctor, otherwise the patient will die. Those affected primarily suffer from various breathing difficulties as a result of the ruptured lung. This can also lead to shortness of breath and severe chest pain.

The reduced supply of oxygen can also severely damage the brain and internal organs, resulting in irreversible consequential damage. Furthermore, the patients suffer from coughing and are severely restricted in their lives. The undersupply of oxygen can also lead to a loss of consciousness. As a rule, this causes fatigue and reduced resilience in the patient.

Lung rupture can also cause pain, with pain continuing to increase, especially with exertion. The treatment of this complaint must be carried out in a hospital or by an emergency doctor. Otherwise the patient dies.

There are no complications from the treatment itself. However, the further course of this complaint depends heavily on the time of treatment and the general condition of the patient. The life expectancy may also be reduced by the lung rupture.

When should you go to the doctor?

A rupture in the lung can occur in different degrees of severity, so that it is not always necessary to see a doctor. A small hairline tear in the lung can heal completely without seeking medical attention. Symptoms or pain do not occur in such a case, so the affected person often does not even notice the tear in the lung. However, if the tear is larger, acute shortness of breath may occur.

Affected people must be treated by a doctor, otherwise there is even a risk of death from suffocation. Such a tear no longer grows independently, which is why inpatient treatment in the hospital is essential. A rupture in the lung can only be healed completely and promptly with medical and drug treatment. If the affected person does not seek treatment from a doctor, serious complications and aggravations can be expected. Under certain circumstances, there may even be permanent consequential damage to the lungs, so that a perfect recovery is not possible. For this reason, a visit to the doctor should not be delayed. The larger the tear in the lung, the more acute and severe the pain when breathing in and out.

Treatment & Therapy

As a rule, every ruptured lung requires treatment: Only a small, spontaneously occurring ruptured lung that does not cause any symptoms does not require medical treatment. Otherwise, if a lung tear is diagnosed, first aid must be provided immediately. If the lung rupture is not treated immediately, an arterial gas embolism can occur when breathing air enters the pulmonary veins.

Immobilization of the upper body in an upright position must be initiated immediately. If the person concerned is a diver, work towards warming up his body. In the event of unconsciousness, the highest priority is to place the patient in a stable lateral position while monitoring breathing and blood pressure. If the person concerned is under medical care, they must be supplied with pure oxygen for breathing. Any resuscitation should also use oxygen that is as pure as possible.

If the ventilation is stationary, this is done either by means of a face mask, a nasal tube or a breathing bag. In severe cases, it may be necessary to insert a thin tube into the side of the chest – an incision makes this possible. This allows air to escape from the chest cavity.

Outlook & Forecast

A ruptured lung can be treated well, which leads to favorable prospects for recovery. This is all the more true for minor injuries. They even heal on their own if you take care of them. Additional administration of oxygen even leads to faster recovery. If there is a large tear in the lung, the accumulation of air in the chest can be drained off using a hose. Doctors around the world are trained to do this. Complications are very rare and mainly affect smokers. Some scientists see an increased risk of a lung rupture reoccurring in the first three months after it has healed.

Left untreated, a ruptured lung often has serious consequences. Above all, a life-threatening lung collapse threatens. In addition to patients with an existing lung disease, divers also belong to the risk group. However, the latter often know about the danger and are trained in first-aid measures. The fact that emergency measures are taken immediately in the event of an acute illness is considered the best way to achieve lasting healing. Once organ damage has occurred due to a ruptured lung, it usually cannot be repaired. Patients are then left with only a life with major restrictions. Life expectancy is comparatively low.


Divers can prevent lung rupture by avoiding underwater coughing and breath holding. A general renunciation of smoking is strongly recommended for divers. Even with a slight cold, the intended dive should be postponed to a later date.

A regular fitness test – preferably once a year – should be “obligatory” for a diver anyway. Listening to the airways and examining the lung function promise safety on the next dive – enough air to breathe. This is how the freestyle succeeds without any problems.


The lung rupture is a serious condition for those affected and must be treated immediately by a doctor, otherwise the person concerned will die. Those affected suffer from a constant urge to cough and are permanently restricted in their lives and everyday life. They depend on the help and support of relatives.

Those affected often have to take care of themselves after the actual treatment. Regular check-ups with the doctor treating you ensure uninterrupted observation and can prevent the occurrence of further complications. However, the further course after the treatment depends on the time of the treatment and the state of health of the person concerned. Whether the life expectancy is shortened by the lung rupture varies from case to case.

You can do that yourself

In the case of a ruptured lung, first aid must first be given. While the emergency doctor is called, the person concerned must be placed in the stable side position. It must also be ensured that the injured person is able to breathe and that there are no other injuries.

The lung rupture then requires medical evaluation and treatment. The sufferer can use some strategies and tips to support medical therapy and promote recovery. This includes, first and foremost, protection. A ruptured lung is usually caused by a serious lung disease or injury that needs to be properly cured to avoid complications. If breathing difficulties occur – this can be the case especially in the initial period after an operation – it is best to inform the doctor. In addition to the prescribed medication, breathing and relaxation exercises can improve respiratory flow.

Conscious relaxation, for example through exercises from yoga or traditional Chinese medicine, also helps against panic attacks. Coughing can be counteracted with the help of herbal tea or warm milk. Cooling pads or warmth help with severe chest pain, always depending on the type of complaint and the doctor’s recommendations.