Pulmonary Air Leaks

Pulmonary air leaks are more common in the newborn period than at any other time in life. It happens when the air escapes from the lungs to the extra-alveolar spaces, where it isn’t present. A chain reaction of disorders might originate in a baby, depending on where the air has leaked into. 

Pulmonary air leaks consist of a spectrum of various diseases that depend on the same pathophysiology. The overdistention of terminal airways within the body often disrupts the integrity of the airway, which results in air dissection into those spaces.

Types of Diseases That Arise From Pulmonary Air Leaks

Pulmonary air leaks from the lungs are a type of syndrome that gives rise to specific health disorders in a baby, which include:

  • Pneumothorax
  • Pulmonary Interstitial Emphysema
  • Pneumopericardium
  • Pneumomediastinum
  • Pneumothorax
  • Subcutaneous Emphysema
  • Pneumoperitoneum

Symptoms of pulmonary air leaks

There are no specific symptoms of pulmonary air leaks. However, some common signs of all the associated diseases are sudden pain in the chest and shortness of breath. The symptoms might be severe or mild, depending on how much the lung has collapsed. Irrespective of the intensity of the symptoms, you should consult your doctor to examine the baby immediately.

Causes of Pulmonary Air Leaks

Pulmonary air leaks might happen due to a few causes, which include:

  • Blunt or severe chest injury: Any penetrating or moderate injury to a baby's chest can cause the lungs to collapse.
  • Damage due to any underlying disease in the lungs: If the lung tissue is already damaged at birth, it is likely to collapse. Several reasons might result in underlying lung diseases.
  • Mechanical ventilation: If your baby needs mechanical assistance for breathing upon birth, it might create an air pressure imbalance within his or her chest. Hence, the lung might collapse. 
  • Ruptured or burst air blisters: Small air blisters can form over the top area of the lungs. At times, these blisters might just burst, allowing air leakage into the area surrounding the baby’s lungs. 

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you notice your baby having shortness of breath, you should make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. Talk to your doctors and get your appointments right away.

Risk Factors Associated with Pulmonary Air Leaks

Some of the risk factors for pulmonary air leaks in babies that make it more likely for them to get diseases that are part of this syndrome are:

  • Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • Premature birth
  • Amniotic fluid aspiration
  • low Apgar score
  • Surfactant Deficiency Syndrome
  • Infection
  • Positive pressure ventilation during resuscitation
  • long inspiratory time
  • large tidal volume
  • High inspiratory pressure

Complications Caused by Pulmonary Air Leaks

The severity of the disease linked to a pulmonary air leak will be determined by the size of the air leak. In some rare cases, internal bleeding or punctures within the lungs might occur.

In the worst cases, the pulmonary air leaks keep returning, and some babies might experience breathing problems. So, to ensure this doesn’t happen with your baby, you need to respond quickly to the adverse symptoms and connect with specialists.

Prevention of Pulmonary Air Leaks

If the baby is at high risk of developing pulmonary air leaks, the doctors may recommend a few preventative measures to try to avoid the adversity of air leak syndrome.

Doctors recommend gentle ventilation with low tidal volume, low pressure, low inspiratory time, judicious use of expiratory and positive pressure, and low tidal volume, and a high rate. It is a tested technique to prevent "air leak syndrome" in babies, provided the procedure is conducted at the earliest.

Treatment of Pulmonary Air Leaks

No treatments can be specified until the pulmonary air leaks and their intensity have been detected. The type of disease it triggers is important for doctors to know before recommending any treatment. So, you should get your baby diagnosed thoroughly by specialist doctors, who will recommend the best possible solutions to help overcome the situation.


Pulmonary air leaks often give rise to critical health problems in babies. In some cases, it is asymptomatic, and there is no need for any mechanical ventilation for the babies. But for some, the situation is critically adverse, and the slightest delay in treatments can cause serious repercussions. So, stay in touch with your doctors if your baby is at high risk for experiencing air leak syndrome.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Brookefield. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. Can babies recover from air leak syndrome?

Some air leaks will go away within a few days and don't need any treatment. But infants with serious leaks are causing related diseases. The recovery will be specified based on the severity of the disease.

2. Does genetics play a role in causing pulmonary air leaks in babies?

Yes, in most cases, pulmonary air leak syndrome runs in families. To protect your baby from this syndrome, you must take precautions beginning with pregnancy.

3. Can pneumothorax disease be created without any surgery?

The only way to treat pulmonary air leak syndrome, which causes pneumothorax, is to put a chest tube or needle between the ribs to remove the extra air. But if the air leak or pneumothorax is small, it might heal independently.

4. How long does it take for a baby to recover from air leak syndrome after treatment?

The recovery might take a few days or weeks because the treatment depends on the lung issues that lead to the air leak syndrome.

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