Plate Atelectasis

by Sam Malone

The collapsing of the lung is called atelectasis. It may be a collapse of all or part of a lung. It is one of the common abnormalities found in chest radiology findings.

Alveolar collapse or absence of gas in the alveoli is caused due to the consolidation of liquid. As a result, the alveoli are deflated. This condition can often be found in chest X-rays and other radiological studies. This can occur when air from the lungs get released due to some disease or wound. Recognition of such abnormalities is vital in order to understand the underlying pathology. There are several types of atelectasis, and they can be differentiated with characteristic radiographic pattern and etiology. Physiologically, atelectasis can be divided into two: obstructive atelectasis and non-obstructive atelectasis.

Obstructive atelectasis is the most common type of atelectasis and is caused due to the reabsorption of gas from the alveoli. When the communication between the alveoli and the trachea is obstructed, reabsorption of gas takes place.

Non-obstructive atelectasis can be caused by several factors such as loss of contact between the parietal and visceral pleurae, loss of surfactant, compression, replacement of parenchymal tissue, etc. you know like you will always be mean to

What is plate atelectasis?

Plate-like atelectasis is also known as discoid or subsegmental atelectasis. Obstruction of small bronchus results in plate atelectasis. Hypo ventilation, pulmonary embolism, and lower respiratory tract infection are some of the common factors that cause obstruction.


If the lungs cannot fully expand and fill the air, atelectasis occurs. This can be caused by the factors that prevent deep breathing and coughing and blockage of the airway. Obstruction of the bronchus is the primary cause of atelectasis. It is common after surgery. Other common causes include the following:

  • Lung diseases
  • Anesthesia
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • Shallow breathing
  • Foreign object in the airway; this occurs commonly in children
  • Tumor in the airway that causes obstruction
  • Mucus in the airway
  • Painful breathing
  • Poorly placed breathing tube from a ventilator.
  • Inadequate regional ventilation also results in atelectasis.
  • Abnormalities such as hypoxia, ischemia, hyperoxia, and exposure to toxins may result in surfactant formation that cause atelectasis.
Due to the obstruction of a bronchus, the circulating blood absorbs the air that is already in the air sac, leading to an airless state. Thus, the affected area of the lung deflates. If the obstruction is removed, the lungs return to their normal state. However, persistent obstruction may result in the development of fibrosis and lung becomes bronchiectatic.


Obstruction of a bronchus results in a low level of oxygen in the blood. This results in the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sometimes, the skin and lips may turn blue.


Treatment of atelectasis depends on the underlying cause. It involves treatment to rectify the cause and to re-expand the collapsed lung tissue. Atelectasis caused by surgery can be treated with deep breathing exercises. Coughing helps to clear obstacles like mucus from the airway. If the condition occurs due to prolonged bed rest, changing the position or walking can be useful. PEEP or CPAP devices help to keep the airways and air sacs open.

If pressure from outside the lungs is the cause of atelectasis, treating the cause of the pressure can help lungs to fully expand. In case of tumor or fluid buildup, removing them can help to get rid of the pressure. If blockage is the cause, removing the blockage is the treatment option. If the blockage is due to mucus plug, using suction or other treatments can help remove the blockage.

Thus, treating the underlying cause with medicines, procedures, or other therapies can help to re-expand the collapsed lung.



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