What Is the Difference Between Pneumothorax and Hemothorax?

According to WebMD, pneumothorax is a collection of air in the area between the lung and the chest wall, also known as the pleural space. Medline Plus defines a hemothorax as a collection of blood in the pleural space. Both pneumothorax and hemothorax are usually caused by chest trauma and produce similar symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic states that a pneumothorax may be caused by chest trauma, certain medical procedures involving the lungs or underlying lung disease. Hemothorax may also occur for these reasons as well as a result of blood clotting disorders, as stated by Medline Plus. Unlike hemothorax, sometimes pneumothorax may occur for no reason at all, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The symptoms of hemothorax and pneumothorax are very similar. Medline Plus and WebMD state that common symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. Additional symptoms of hemothorax may include low blood pressure, anxiety, rapid heart rate and restlessness.

Treatment of hemothorax and pneumothorax depends on the severity of the situation. The Mayo Clinic states that if a pneumothorax is small, observation may be the only treatment required. A hemothorax and a larger pneumothorax may require chest tube insertion or, in more severe cases, surgery to correct the issue.