Treatments for Atelectasis

Treatment for atelectasis depends on the cause, with the goal being to reverse the collapse of the lung tissue. For example, if the cause is fluid buildup exerting pressure on the lung, then removing the fluid may allow the lung to expand. Atelectasis caused by a tumor may require chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery to shrink or remove the tumor. Atelectasis that affects a small area of the lung may clear up on its own without treatment.

Some of the medications used include:

  • Acetylcysteine (Mucomyst, Acetadote): Thins mucus making it easier to cough up.
  • DNase (Dornase Alfa): This is used in the case of children with cystic fibrosis and helps to clear mucus plugs. Today, it is gaining acceptance in the treatment of atelectasis resulting from other causes as well.
  • Inhaled bronchodilators (Proventil, Maxair, Ventolin, Foradil): These inhalants open the bronchial tubes making it easier to breathe.

Several types of chest physiotherapy are also used to treat atelectasis. They include:

  • Clapping on the chest over the affected area helps to loosen mucus
  • Deep breathing exercises performed using incentive spirometry
  • Lying down with the head at a lower level than the chest. This is known as postural drainage and helps the accumulated mucus to drain away
  • Breathing oxygen helps to relieve shortness of breath
  • Surgery

  1. Janet Aldrich, Chapter 62 - Atelectasis, In: Lesley G. King, MVB, MRCVS, DACVECC, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, Editor(s), Textbook of Respiratory Disease in Dogs and Cats, W.B. Saunders, Saint Louis, 2004, Pages 465-472, ISBN 9780721687063, 10.1016/B978-0-7216-8706-3.50066-9.