Hemothorax vs. Pneumothorax

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  • 0:03 Two Conditions…
  • 0:18 What is Hemothorax?
  • 1:16 What Is Pneumothorax?
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Hemothorax and pneumothorax have the same suffix, cause similar problems, and may even be caused by similar things, but they are not the same. Learn the difference between the two conditions in this lesson.

Two Conditions Affecting the Chest

Two conditions, one major problem. That's what this lesson is about: distinguishing how two problems affecting the chest and lungs are similar yet very different. These conditions are called hemothorax and pneumothorax.

What Is Hemothorax?

Hemothorax refers to the presence of blood in the pleural cavity. Hemo- means blood and -thorax means chest. The pleural cavity is located in the chest. It's the space between the lungs and inner chest wall, sort of like the space between a nut and the inside of its shell, where the nut is like our lung.

The accumulation of blood in the pleural cavity most often occurs as a result of trauma. So, if something penetrates the chest wall, the lungs, and the large vessels in the chest, then the result may be a hemothorax.

However, other things can cause a hemothorax, including:

  • Cancer
  • A pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Severe infections involving the lungs or chest
  • Surgery

Here's the deal. If blood accumulates in the pleural space, the lungs can't inflate properly, if at all. This results in shortness of breath. In severe cases, it may cause respiratory failure.

What Is Pneumothorax?

Unlike hemothorax, the word pneumothorax refers to air in the pleural space. Pneumo- can refer to the lungs or air and -thorax means chest, just as before. So, in this case, it's not blood that is found in the pleural cavity, it's air. This is just as bad for proper breathing as a hemothorax is. That's because air exerts a pressure on the lungs as well. This pressure collapses the lung. That's why a pneumothorax is sometimes called a collapsed lung. As per hemothorax, pneumothorax causes difficulty breathing and, in severe cases, can result in death.

The causes for a pneumothorax are somewhat similar to a hemothorax. They include:

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