by Amy Scholten, MPH
Atelectasis is a collapse of the air sacs in the lungs. It may occur in part or all of the lung. It can make breathing difficult.
Atelectasis is caused by:
Things that may raise the risk of atelectasis are:
Atelectasis may or may not cause symptoms. A larger area of collapse is more apt to cause symptoms. In this case, symptoms may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may include listening to the lungs for changes in the normal sounds.
The airways may be viewed with:
Other tests may be needed to confirm or rule out the cause of atelectasis.
The goal is to treat the underlying cause and maintain enough oxygen. The collapsed lung usually expands once the cause has been corrected. Mild atelectasis often goes away on its own without treatment.
Treatments options may be:
American Lung Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Atelectasis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 30, 2021.
Chest x-ray patterns in the differential diagnosis of lung disorders. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/evaluation/chest-x-ray-patterns-in-the-differential-diagnosis-of-lung-disorders. Accessed March 30, 2021.
Explore atelectasis. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atl. Accessed March 30, 2021.
Marini JJ. Acute lobar atelectasis. Chest. 2019;155(5):1049-1058.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/30/2021
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.