Pneumothorax Nursing Care Plan

Discover essential information on creating nursing care plans for pneumothorax. Download Carepatron's free PDF example for reference.

By Wynona Jugueta on Jul 15, 2024.


Fact Checked by RJ Gumban.

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What is pneumothorax?

Pneumothorax, derived from the Greek words "pneumo" (air) and "thorax" (chest), is a medical condition characterized by the presence of air in the pleural space, the area between the lung and the chest wall. This buildup of air can disrupt the average pressure balance in the pleural cavity, leading to lung collapse. Coined in the early 19th century (Papagiannis et al., 2015), pneumothorax gained recognition as a distinct medical entity thanks to the pioneering work of physicians like René Laennec, who developed the stethoscope, a critical tool in diagnosing lung conditions.

Initially, pneumothorax was often a consequence of traumatic injuries or medical procedures, but it's now understood to have various causes, including spontaneous occurrence and underlying lung diseases. Understanding pneumothorax involves grasping its impact on respiratory mechanics and its potential to cause respiratory distress or even life-threatening complications if left untreated.

Through advancements in medical imaging and treatment modalities, healthcare professionals continue to refine their approaches to managing this condition, aiming to alleviate symptoms, prevent recurrence, and optimize patient outcomes.

Symptoms of pneumothorax

Pneumothorax presents with a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, depending on the type and extent of lung collapse. Recognizing these signs is crucial for prompt pneumothorax nursing diagnosis and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Chest pain: Often sudden and sharp, localized to the side of the collapsed lung. It may worsen with deep breathing or coughing.
  • Respiratory distress: Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, particularly with exertion. In severe cases, this may progress rapidly, leading to respiratory failure.
  • Decreased or absent breath sounds: Upon auscultation, healthcare providers may notice diminished or absent breath sounds on the affected side of the chest.
  • Tension pneumothorax: In cases of tension pneumothorax, symptoms can rapidly escalate, leading to severe respiratory distress, hypotension, and cardiovascular collapse. This is a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention.
  • Visible chest asymmetry: The affected side of the chest may appear visibly smaller or exhibit paradoxical movement compared to the unaffected side.
  • Cyanosis: Bluish skin discoloration due to inadequate oxygenation, particularly in severe cases of pneumothorax.
  • Hypotension: In tension pneumothorax, increased pressure within the chest cavity can compress blood vessels, leading to decreased cardiac output and hypotension.

Recognizing these symptoms, especially in conjunction with risk factors such as recent chest trauma or underlying risks in chest tubes or chest tube placement, prompts timely evaluation and management.

Types of pneumothorax

Pneumothorax can manifest in various forms, each with distinct causes and characteristics. Understanding these different types is essential for accurate pneumothorax nursing diagnosis and appropriate management. Here are the primary types of pneumothorax:

  • Spontaneous pneumothorax: This type occurs without any apparent cause or external trauma. It can be further classified into two subtypes: primary and secondary spontaneous pneumothorax. Primary affects healthy individuals, often due to the rupture of tiny air-filled sacs (blebs) on the lung's surface, while the secondary arises in individuals with underlying lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cystic fibrosis, where weakened lung tissue or chest tube drainage system inflammation increases the risk of air leakage into the pleural space.
  • Iatrogenic pneumothorax: This type results from medical interventions or procedures, such as chest tube insertion, mechanical ventilation, or thoracentesis (pleural fluid aspiration). During these procedures, accidental lung puncture can accumulate air in the pleural space.
  • Tension pneumothorax: Considered a medical emergency, tension pneumothorax occurs when air continues to enter the pleural space, increasing pressure within the chest cavity. This pressure buildup compresses the affected lung and mediastinal structures, impairing cardiac function and causing cardiovascular collapse if left untreated.

Causes of pneumothorax

Pneumothorax can occur due to various underlying factors, from spontaneous events to traumatic injuries. Understanding the potential causes is essential for identifying risk factors and implementing preventive measures. Here are the primary causes of pneumothorax:

  • Trauma: Physical trauma to the chest, such as rib fractures, penetrating injuries (e.g., gunshot wounds, stab wounds), or blunt force trauma (e.g., motor vehicle accidents), can puncture the lung tissue, allowing air to escape into the pleural space.
  • Lung disease: Certain lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, cystic fibrosis, or asthma, can weaken lung tissue or airways, increasing the susceptibility to spontaneous pneumothorax.
  • Medical procedures: Iatrogenic pneumothorax can result from invasive medical procedures, including thoracentesis (pleural fluid aspiration), mechanical ventilation, central line placement, or chest tube insertion when an inadvertent puncture of the lung occurs.
  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke can damage lung tissue and weaken the alveoli (air sacs), making individuals more prone to spontaneous pneumothorax, particularly in those with underlying lung conditions.
  • Genetic factors: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing spontaneous pneumothorax, often due to abnormalities in lung structure or connective tissue disorders.
  • Environmental factors: High-altitude environments or scuba diving can predispose individuals to barotrauma, where rapid changes in pressure can lead to air leakage into the pleural space.

Problems pneumothorax may lead to

Pneumothorax can give rise to various complications, mainly if left untreated or if tension pneumothorax develops. These complications may include respiratory failure, hypoxemia (low blood oxygen levels), cardiovascular collapse, and even death in severe cases. Additionally, untreated pneumothorax can lead to the development of pleural effusion (accumulation of fluid in the pleural space) or recurrent pneumothorax episodes.

Prompt recognition and management are crucial to preventing these complications and ensuring optimal outcomes for individuals affected by pneumothorax. Regular monitoring and follow-up care are also essential to detect and address potential complications promptly.

Pneumothorax Nursing Care Plan Template

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Pneumothorax Nursing Care Plan Example

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How nurses assess and diagnose pneumothorax

Nurses are critical in assessing and diagnosing pneumothorax, facilitating prompt recognition and treatment. Here are the key steps involved:

Step 1: Patient history and physical examination

Nurses gather relevant information about the patient's medical history, including recent trauma, respiratory symptoms, or underlying lung conditions. A thorough physical examination focuses on respiratory status, chest wall symmetry, and auscultation of breath sounds to detect abnormalities.

Step 2: Vital signs monitoring

Nurses monitor vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation, to assess for signs of respiratory distress or cardiovascular compromise.

Step 3: Imaging studies

Nurses assist in arranging pneumothorax nursing diagnosis imaging studies, such as chest X-rays or CT scans, to confirm the presence of pneumothorax and assess its extent and severity.

Step 4: Auscultation

Nurses auscultate breath sounds using a stethoscope, noting any asymmetry or absence of breath sounds on the affected side, which may indicate lung collapse.

Step 5: Observation of signs and symptoms

Nurses closely observe the patient for signs and symptoms of pneumothorax, including chest pain, shortness of breath, cyanosis, and increased respiratory effort.

Step 6: Collaboration with healthcare team

Nurses collaborate with physicians and other healthcare team members to review assessment findings, interpret diagnostic tests, and formulate a comprehensive care plan for the patient.

How to use our Pneumothorax Nursing Care Plan template

Here's a step-by-step guide on how medical practitioners can effectively utilize Carepatron's Pneumothorax Nursing Care Plan template:

Step 1: Assessment

Begin by conducting a comprehensive assessment of the patient's condition, including gathering pertinent medical history, performing a physical examination, and reviewing diagnostic tests. Use the template's assessment section to document critical findings related to pneumothorax, such as respiratory status, chest pain, and vital signs.

Step 2: Diagnosis

Based on the assessment data, identify nursing diagnoses relevant to the patient's pneumothorax condition. Utilize the template's diagnosis section to list nursing diagnoses, such as impaired gas exchange, ineffective deep breathing pattern, or risk for complications related to pneumothorax.

Step 3: Planning

Develop a tailored care plan to address the patient's specific needs and goals. Use the template's planning section to outline nursing interventions, goals, and expected outcomes for managing pneumothorax effectively.

Step 4: Implementation

Implement the nursing interventions outlined in the care plan, collaborating with other healthcare team members as necessary. Use the template's implementation section to document the actions to address the patient's pneumothorax, such as administering oxygen therapy, monitoring respiratory status, and assisting with chest tube management.

Step 5: Evaluation

Assess the patient's response to nursing interventions regularly and adjust the care plan accordingly. Use the template's evaluation section to document the patient's progress toward achieving goals and any modifications made to the care plan based on assessment findings.

Common nursing interventions for pneumothorax

Nurses are crucial in managing pneumothorax and implementing interventions to promote lung re-expansion, relieve symptoms, and prevent complications. Here are some common nursing interventions for pneumothorax:

Oxygen therapy

Administer supplemental oxygen as prescribed to optimize oxygenation and alleviate hypoxemia. Monitor oxygen saturation levels closely to ensure adequate tissue oxygenation.

Chest tube management

Monitor chest tube drainage and assess for proper placement and functioning. Ensure the integrity of the chest tube drainage system to prevent air leaks and maintain negative pressure within the pleural space.

Positioning and mobility

Position the patient in a comfortable position that promotes optimal lung expansion, such as a semi-Fowler's position with the affected side elevated. Encourage mobility as tolerated to facilitate lung re-expansion and prevent complications of immobility.

Perform deep breathing exercises

Encourage and assist the patient with deep breathing exercises to promote lung expansion and prevent atelectasis. Instruct the patient on the importance of regular deep breathing exercises to maintain optimal lung function.

Chest X-ray monitoring

Arrange for chest X-rays as needed to assess lung re-expansion and confirm the resolution of pneumothorax. Monitor changes in chest X-ray findings to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and guide further management.

Benefits of having a comprehensive care plan

A comprehensive care plan serves as a roadmap for healthcare professionals, guiding them in delivering effective and coordinated patient care. Here are five key benefits of having a comprehensive care plan:

Individualized patient care

Tailoring care plans to each patient's unique needs and preferences ensures personalized interventions are targeted, leading to better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Improved communication and collaboration

Care plans facilitate communication and collaboration among healthcare team members, ensuring everyone is aligned with the patient's goals and objectives, promoting continuity of care.

Enhanced patient safety

By outlining specific interventions and precautions, care plans help mitigate risks and prevent adverse events, promoting patient safety and reducing the likelihood of medical errors.

Optimal resource utilization

Care plans help optimize resource allocation by identifying the most appropriate interventions and treatments based on the patient's condition and available resources, maximizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Continuity of care

Care plans provide a framework for ongoing monitoring and follow-up. They ensure that patients receive consistent and coordinated care across different healthcare settings and transitions of care, promoting continuity and preventing gaps in care.


Papagiannis, A., Lazaridis, G., Zarogoulidis, K., Papaiwannou, A., Karavergou, A., Lampaki, S., Baka, S., Mpoukovinas, I., Karavasilis, V., Kioumis, I., Pitsiou, G., Katsikogiannis, N., Tsakiridis, K., Rapti, A., Trakada, G., Karapantzos, I., Karapantzou, C., Zissimopoulos, A., & Zarogoulidis, P. (2015). Pneumothorax: An up to date “introduction.” Annals of Translational Medicine, 3(4).

What is the diagnosis of pneumothorax?
What is the diagnosis of pneumothorax?

Commonly asked questions

What is the diagnosis of pneumothorax?

The diagnosis of pneumothorax is typically confirmed through imaging studies such as chest X-rays or CT scans, which reveal the presence of air in the pleural space and lung collapse.

What is pneumothorax as evidenced by?

Pneumothorax is evidenced by symptoms such as sudden onset chest pain, shortness of breath, decreased or absent breath sounds on the affected side, and chest X-ray findings of lung collapse and air in the pleural space.

What is the treatment plan for pneumothorax?

The treatment plan for pneumothorax often involves inserting a chest tube to evacuate air from the pleural space, re-expand the lung, and prevent recurrence. In severe cases of tension pneumothorax, needle decompression may be necessary as an emergency measure.

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