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Eur Respir J. 2006 Sep;28(3):637-50.

Management of spontaneous pneumothorax: state of the art.

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Valais Pneumology Centre, Crans-Montana, Switzerland.


Spontaneous pneumothorax remains a significant health problem. However, with time, there have been improvements in pathogenesis, diagnostic procedures and both medical and surgical approaches to treatment. Owing to better imaging techniques, it is now clear that there is almost no normal visceral pleura in the case of spontaneous pneumothorax, and that blebs and bullae are not always the cause of pneumothorax. In first episodes of primary spontaneous pneumothorax, observation and simple aspiration are established first-line therapies, as proven by randomised controlled trials. Aspiration should be better promoted in daily medical practice. In the case of recurrent or persistent pneumothorax, simple talc poudrage under thoracoscopy has been shown to be safe, cost-effective and no more painful than a conservative treatment using a chest tube. There are also new experimental data showing that talc poudrage, as used in Europe, does not lead to serious side-effects and is currently the best available pleural sclerosing agent. Alternatively, surgical techniques have considerably improved, and are now less invasive, especially due to the development of video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. Studies suggest that video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery may be more cost-effective than chest tube drainage in spontaneous pneumothorax requiring chest tube drainage, although it is more expensive than simple thoracoscopy and requires general anaesthesia, double-lumen tube intubation and ventilation. Recommendations are made regarding the treatment of pneumothorax. In secondary or complicated primary pneumothorax, i.e. recurrent or persistent pneumothorax, some diffuse treatment of the visceral pleura should be offered, either by talc poudrage under thoracoscopy or by video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery. Moreover, all of these new techniques should be better standardised to permit comparison in randomised controlled studies.

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