Discoid Atelectasis Treatment: What Are Its Causes & Symptoms?

Atelectasis is defined as collapse of lung. It can be either complete shrinkage of the lung or of a small part of the lung. Collapse of lung restricts the function of lung. Atelectasis develops when the tiny alveoli in the lungs are unable to re- inflate and as a result the air flow in it is hampered. It is one of the possible post surgical complications. The condition also occurs as a side effect of general anesthesia beside various other factors.

There are several types of atelectasis depending on the underlying cause.

The symptoms may differ for each type. Discoid atelectasis is one such form of atelectasis. It is also called Fleischner’s line. This type of collapse is seen on X-ray as two to five centimeter transverse line like a disk, several millimeter thick at the base of lung.

Fleischner proved that these plates or disk like lines were due to collapse of small area of the lung. The condition is treated in the same way as other types of atelectasis.

What Are The Causes Of Discoid Atelectasis?

There are many causes of discoid atelectasis.

  • It is considered to be one of the side effects after general anesthesia.
  • It can occur as a complication after abdominal or lung surgery.
  • Restricted diaphragmatic motion due to its paralysis can cause discoid atelectasis.
  • Often the cause can be pulmonary embolism, where a clot in the pulmonary artery can occlude lung function.
  • Accumulation of fluid in abdomen, also called ascites can cause discoid atelectasis.
  • Factors which increase pressure on lung. One such common condition is pleural effusion. It is collection of fluid in the pleura, the lining which covers the lung.
  • Obstruction of bronchioles by a foreign body.
  • Pooling of blood or mucus in the central bronchi which are not cleared due to diminished cough reflex or reduced diaphragmatic motion can cause discoid atelectasis.
  • Tumor in lung and other lung diseases are also responsible for this condition.

Symptoms Of Discoid Atelectasis

The area of discoid atelectasis is extremely small and it may or may not produce symptoms. If they are present, they often are confused with other chest illnesses. The general symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, pain in chest and mild to moderate cough often confuse as they are also present in many other lung diseases.

In suspected cases of discoid atelectasis, doctors usually rely of radiological findings such as X-ray of chest and CT scan of the lungs. On the x-ray a small disk like line is clearly noticeable, mostly at the base of lungs. As the collapse area is small, there are more chances of it resolving without any specific treatment. However, if the symptoms such as breathing problem, chest pain are severe patient needs to be treated immediately.

Treatment Options For Discoid Atelectasis

The main aim of the treatment for discoid atelectesis or any other form of atelectasis is to resume the air entry by expansion of the alveoli in the collapsed part of the lung. The treatment may differ depending on the underlying cause that is responsible for it.

  • You can try draining the accumulated collection by lying in the head low position. That is the head lying below your heart position. As a result the fluid and mucus collected in the bronchi will drain and come out from the mouth through coughing.
  • Clap on the affected part of chest having collapsed lung alveoli. It helps to loosen the mucus and make space of for free air entry.
  • Deep breathing exercises are beneficial to remove the impacted mucus in the lungs and airspace.
  • Mucus impaction may require therapeutic bronchoscopy if the usual technique of chest physiotherapy is unsuccessful.
  • Patient should move around if he is confined for a long in bed. This will allow the collapsed lung to get expand and inflate.
  • Sometimes to relieve discoid atelectasis, bronchodilator medications are beneficial. It makes breathing easier by dilating the bronchial tubes and drains the mucus.

Most cases of discoid atelectasis do not require to be treated as the alveoli re- inflates on its own over a period of time. Since the affected area is very small, the rest of the lung takes over its function and patient does not suffer from any major breathing problem.

However, if the collapsed area is large, it requires medical intervention. Children having discoid type may require hospitalization for the treatment. As there is an increased risk of infection and pneumonia more care is needed to prevent as the patient is recovering from the illness.