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Bibasilar Atelectasis - Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Pictures

Updated on August 20, 2014

Bibasilar Atelectasis Pictures

What is Bibasilar Atelectasis?

This medical condition is when a person has a collapse of the tiny air pockets in their lungs. These tiny air pockets are called alveoli. It is more commonly referred to as atelectasis. When a person has this medical condition it can interrupt their breathing in the area where this is occurring. It can also accompany many different lung diseases like asthma, pneumonia, and COPD and is common after surgery. It can also be a complication of inhaling a foreign object, having fluid in the lung, cystic fibrosis, and chest injuries. Bibasilar atelectasis can affect all or part of one lung or lobe. It is very common to see this in radiology studies like chest x-rays. How much of the lung tissue that is involved varies depending on what caused it.


There are two classifications of bibasilar atelectasis.

  • Acute - this is when your lung has just recently collapsed. It is primarily notable only for airlessness.
  • Chronic - this is when the area that is affected is often characterized by a complex mixture of infection, scarring and destruction, called fibrosis, airlessness, and the widening of the bronchi, called bronchietasis.


When a person has bibasilar atelectasis they may be no obvious symptoms but if there any symptoms they can vary from person to person. If you do have any symptoms they may include:

  • Trouble breathing, called dyspnea
  • Breathing that is rapid, shallow, wheezing
  • Coughing and you may cough up blood
  • Low grade fever
  • Chest pain
  • Oxygen saturation that is low
  • Heart rate that is increased

A person may also have cyanosis, which is having the appearance of a purple or blue coloration of their skin or mucous membranes because of the tissues that are near the surface of your skin is low on oxygen. If a person has this symptom it is a late symptom. If you have any of these symptoms it is important that you see your physician as soon as possible because it is a serious medical condition as it reduces the amount of oxygen that is available for your body.


Bibasilar atelectasis could be caused by pressure from outside the lung called non-obstructive or from a blocked airway, called obstructive. As mentioned almost everyone who has had surgery will have some form of bibasilar atelectasis because of the anesthesia. When a person has anesthesia it changes the dynamics of the airflow within your lungs and the absorption of pressures and gasses. The combination of these will cause some degree of collapse of the tiny air sacs in the lungs. It is more prominent after having heart bypass surgery.

Obstructive causes

  • Mucus plug - this is an accumulation of mucus in your airways. It often occurs during and after surgery because of your inability to cough. This is the most common obstructive cause.
  • Foreign body - this is when a person inhales an object like a small toy part into their lungs. This is a common cause in children.
  • Having a disease that causes a narrowing of your major airways - this is any medical condition that can constrict and scar your major airways like chronic infections and tuberculosis
  • Having a tumor in a major airway that causes it narrow
  • Blood clot which usually only occurs if there is significant bleeding into your lungs that cannot be coughed out.

Non-Obstructive causes

  • Chest trauma such as from a car accident or fall
  • Pleural effusion which is a buildup of fluid between the chest wall and the tissues that line your lungs.
  • Pneumonia which is an inflammation of your lungs
  • Pneumothorax which is when air leaks into the space between your chest wall and lungs.


The treatment that the physician uses will depend on what is causing it and the severity. Here are some of the treatments that a physician may choose to use.

Chest physiotherapy

This is when a physician uses different techniques to help a person to breathe deeply after having surgery. These techniques will help to re-expand your collapsed lung tissue, which is very important. You should make sure that you learn these techniques before having your surgery. Some of those techniques include

  • Coughing,
  • Doing deep-breathing exercises
  • Clapping on your chest over the area that is affected so you can loosen the mucus
  • Making sure that you position your body when lying down so your head is lower than your chest to allow the mucus to drain better from the bottom of your lungs.

The physician may also use medications such as inhaled bronchodilators to help open your bronchial tubs of your lungs to make it easy for you to breath.


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