Bibasilar atelectasis: Symptoms, causes, and complications


A person’s lungs are made up of several areas, each of which is called a lobe. The right lung has three lobes, and the left lung has two lobes.When someone experiences bibasilar atelectasis, the lowermost lobes of their lungs collapse entirely or partially.The lobes of the lungs are filled with millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. The alveoli are arranged in clusters and surrounded by blood vessels. When a person breathes in and out, the alveoli allow their blood to collect oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.During bibasilar atelectasis, the alveoli in the base of the lungs deflate and stop performing this essential task. Oxygen may not be able to reach the vital organs, making bibasilar atelectasis life-threatening in some cases. Bibasilar atelectasis can also leave behind scarring, which could lead to reduced lung function afterward.The condition is more common after major surgery, but may also be a complication of other issues.The condition is sometimes confused with pneumothorax. While the two conditions are similar, they have different causes. In some cases, pneumothorax may lead to atelectasis on one side.


If only a small portion of the lung collapses, atelectasis may not cause any symptoms. If a person does experience symptoms, these may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • feeling their breath is too shallow or quick
  • not being able to take a full, satisfying breath
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • lots of mucus or sputum

Difficulty breathing is the most common symptom. A person may have other symptoms as well, depending on the underlying cause.


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