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Lung diseases

Pneumothorax

09/03/2009

Question:

How many weeks should I wait to fly following a pneumothorax?

Answer:

This depends on several factors including how high the plane will be flying (altitude), whether there is underlying lung disease, and whether the pneumothorax has been completely absorbed. The danger is that if there is still a small pneumothorax left, when the plane climbs to cruising altitude, the pneumothorax can enlarge resulting in shortness of breath and collapse of the lung. Once the pneumothorax has been completely absorbed or drained by a chest tube and there is no more air in the pleural space, then air flight is safe. If there is a small amount of air still trapped in the pleural space, then low altitude air flight poses less risk than high altitude air flight.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University