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Pneumatocele Follow-up

  • Author: Denise Serebrisky, MD; Chief Editor: Michael R Bye, MD  more...
 
Updated: Jan 31, 2016
 

Further Outpatient Care

Most pneumatoceles resolve completely in a few weeks to months. However, in some healthy children, pneumatoceles persist as long as 16 months. Therefore, intermittent outpatient monitoring of chest radiographs is appropriate until resolution. Some recommend chest CT imaging after the findings on plain radiography are clear to ensure complete resolution. However, no clearly recognized radiological or clinical signs help to predict progression of the pneumatocele.

Findings on pulmonary function studies frequently are abnormal initially because of a restrictive defect and, at times, an obstructive defect. Over time, these abnormalities improve and, most often, return to normal predicted ranges. These should not be routinely performed during the acute stages. The increased pressures in spirometry may increase the risk of rupture.

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Further Inpatient Care

After starting appropriate intravenous antibiotic therapy, perform chest radiography to monitor improvement of pneumonia and progression of the pneumatocele.

If significant pleural effusion is present or develops, consider thoracentesis and/or chest tube drainage.

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Inpatient & Outpatient Medications

No further medications are required.

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Transfer

Consider transfer to an intensive care unit when a large tension pneumatocele is causing cardiovascular compromise or significant airway obstruction. Similarly, consider transfer to an intensive care unit if a rupture of the pneumatocele causes a pneumothorax.

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Deterrence/Prevention

No preventative therapy is available.

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Complications

A tension pneumatocele can develop if airtrapping continues and the pneumatocele expands. This complication occurs most frequently with positive pressure ventilation. If severe, the lesion can cause compression of adjacent structures, with hemodynamic instability and severe airway obstruction. If unrecognized and untreated, this can result in respiratory failure and death.

Pneumothorax can occur from a pneumatocele rupturing into the pleural space. This can lead to collapse of the lung, requiring evacuation of the pleural air to reexpand the lung. A bronchopleural fistula can result as a complication of the pneumothorax.

A pneumatocele can become secondarily infected, usually by a different bacterium from the one that caused the primary pneumonia. Some advocate percutaneous drainage of infected pneumatoceles, especially if fluid- or pus-filled to prevent the development of severe lung abscess that may require surgical excision. Drainage can be both diagnostic and therapeutic. If drained, the fluid should be cultured for bacteria and fungus.

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Prognosis

In general, an uncomplicated pneumatocele carries an excellent prognosis. As discussed, complete resolution of the pneumatocele is the most common outcome.

Rare complications, including tension pneumatocele, can lead to death from respiratory or cardiovascular collapse from progressive enlargement of the pneumatocele. However, this is rare and, if detected promptly, can be properly treated.

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Patient Education

No specific educational requirements are indicated.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Denise Serebrisky, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Director, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Lewis M Fraad Department of Pediatrics, Jacobi Medical Center/North Central Bronx Hospital; Director, Jacobi Asthma and Allergy Center for Children, Jacobi Medical Center

Denise Serebrisky, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Arthur B Atlas, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Arthur B Atlas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, Medical Society of New Jersey

Disclosure: Received grant/research funds from astra zeneca for none.

Debra Boyer, MD Fellow, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Children's Hospital of Boston

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Charles Callahan, DO Professor, Chief, Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Pulmonology, Tripler Army Medical Center

Charles Callahan, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, American Thoracic Society, Association of Military Surgeons of the US, Christian Medical and Dental Associations

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Michael R Bye, MD Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine; Attending Physician, Pediatric Pulmonary Division, Women's and Children's Hospital of Buffalo

Michael R Bye, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP Professor of Pediatrics, Rush Medical College; Director, Section of Pediatric Pulmonology and Rush Cystic Fibrosis Center, Rush Children's Hospital, Rush University Medical Center

Girish D Sharma, MD, FCCP, FAAP is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Pneumonia with multiple pneumatoceles.
Pneumonia with pneumatocele (lateral).
Resolving pneumatocele.
Chest CT scan of pneumonia with pneumatocele.
 
 
 
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