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Aetiology of spontaneous pneumothorax

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Causes of spontaneous pneumothorax include:

  • in primary pneumothorax
    • typically occur in tall, thin males
    • underlying small subpleural bleb or bulla
    • tobacco smoking
      • a retrospective study carried out in Stockholm have revealed that relative risk of a first pneumothorax is increased by ninefold in women who smoke and by 22-fold in men who smoke
      • in addition there is an association between the number of cigarettes smoked a day and risk of pneumothorax.
  • in secondary pneumothorax
    • obstructive lung disease – COPD (commonest cause), aasthma
    • suppurative lung disease – bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis
    • lung malignancy
    • infections – pneumonia, tuberculosis
    • interstitial lung disease - pulmonary fibrosis, extrinsic allergic alveolitis
    • thoracic endometriosis (1,2)


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