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What Is Hydropneumothorax?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Human lungs are located inside the chest next to the rest of the organs. They are kept separate from other parts of the body with an outer membrane capsule called the pleura. The gap between the outside of the lungs and this membrane is a space, which normally does not contain air or much liquid. When a person has air and liquid inside this space, then the condition is called a hydropneumothorax. Causes of this medical problem include physical injury and side effects of surgical operations.

The lungs are the pathways allowing air into the body, which needs to be properly broken down and packaged for the body to use it properly. This is the function of the lungs, and the rest of the organs inside the chest have no need to be exposed to air, and this may in fact be dangerous. Humans have evolved, therefore, to add an extra layer of protection between the lungs and the other central organs, to keep air out and also protect the lungs from any damage that could occur from the other components of the chest.

Normally the space between the pleural capsule and the lungs does not contain air, and only has a small amount of fluid in it. The low level of fluid helps to keep the cells of both the capsule and the lungs themselves healthy. Absorption, and replacement of this fluid happens regularly, and the body keeps it at a controlled level. When air, or more fluid than normal gets into the space between the lungs and the pleura, which is known as the pleural space, then this can be detrimental to the health of the individual. Hydropneumothorax refers to the specific situation when both air and fluid are found inside the cavity.

Most commonly, hydropneumothorax occurs through physical damage that can occur through injury or accidentally through surgery. This can happen through a tear in the tissues involved, or when the esophagus is broken. Operations in the location can accidentally result in rips to the tissues that lets air and fluid move around, and certain procedures such as removal of air already in the cavity can accidentally introduce fluid or more air into the space.

A hydropneumothorax is also commonly called a hydropneumothorax or a pneumoserothorax. The origin of these names derives from the Greek words for water and air, hydro and pneumo. This type of medical diagnosis is commonly identified through medical imaging techniques. For example, a hydropneumothorax appears as a blotch on an X-ray, as fluid and air have different densities to the normal appearance of a healthy lung.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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