Pneumothorax in Premature Babies

Pneumothorax in Premature Babies – Definition, Causes and Treatment


Pneumothorax or “pneumo” is a type of air leak that can cause harm should the air go someplace other than the chest cavity.  Its degree can swing from mild to severe depending on the amount air that has escaped from the chest cavity.

Pneumothorax in Premature Babies
Pneumothorax in Premature Babies




A pneumo or other types of air leak develops when the tiny air sacs in the lungs burst.  These tiny air sacs is the place where O2 (oxygen) or CO2 (carbon dioxide) are exchanged.  When the air sacs are raptured, air escapes and causes an air leak.


Premature babies who weigh less than 1500g at birth have more fragile lung tissues have a high risk in getting pneumothorax or air leaks.


When babies appeared not breathing after birth, the resuscitation team will use a device to give manual breaths until the baby finally starts to breathe.  Additionally, babies who need extended aid for breathing in the form of a ventilator or CPAP also have a higher risk of pneumo.  This is due to the forced entry of air into the lungs to keep the pair inflated and the baby’s oxygen level up.




After a doctor’s diagnosis, a medical team can perform chest x-ray to confirm if your baby has a pneumo.  Treatment then depends upon the status of the air leak and the symptoms of the condition.  Here are some of the treatments that a preemie who has pneumo may undergo:


  • Needle aspiration
  • A needle attached to a syringe is inserted through the chest wall and is then used to withdraw the leaked air.


  • Chest tube
  • For severe pneumothorax (particularly in preemies on a ventilator), a chest tube is used to get rid of the air until the leak has been settled or sucked out.