What is a Lung Hernia?
When someone says “hernia,” most people think of the
area below the abdomen, where part of the intestine has pushed
through a tear in the muscle wall caused by a strain, such as lifting
a heavy object. A lung hernia refers to part of a lung pushing
through a tear, or bulging through a weak spot, in the chest wall,
neck passageway or diaphragm.
This condition as a natural, congenital
occurrence is rare—less than one in five cases reported.
Most people who experience a lung hernia suffered a severe trauma
such as a traffic accident in which the chest is injured. Lung
hernias by themselves aren’t life threatening. They might
not even be all that troublesome. They’re fairly easy to
locate, diagnose, and correct.
The Mechanics of Lung Hernias
As a person inhales, the lungs expand.
This in turn expands the chest. If there is an opening or a soft
spot in the chest wall, neck opening or diaphragm, it’s possible
that the lung as it expands will push through or cause a bulge
at that point. Two out of three lung hernias involve the chest
(thoracic) wall, and most of the rest involve the neck (cervical)
area. Lung hernias related to the diaphragm are uncommon and limited
mainly to congenital conditions in infants.
In a number of cases,
lung hernias occur and persist without bothersome effects. In others,
the person might feel sore or have trouble breathing. Some infants
with herniated diaphragms at birth can have organs located up in
the chest cavity. This can cause so much pressure on the lungs
that they don’t develop properly.
Symptoms of Lung Hernias
When symptoms of a lung hernia do arise, they tend to
be fairly clear cut. They include:
- Sharp pain when inhaling,
coughing, or sneezing
- Difficulty breathing deeply or
a shortness of breath
- General soreness in a particular
area of the chest
- Swelling in a particular area of the
possible that these symptoms will become more severe over time,
but it’s not always the case.
Causes of Lung Hernias
hernias are the result of injury or trauma to the chest area,
such as a fall or car accident. But there are a number of other
causes. They include:
- Illness or surgery in which the
chest wall is weakened or altered
- A coughing “jag” or
even a single harsh cough
- Chest wall muscle strain
resulting from lifting
- Congenital deformity
use of steroids
Diagnosing Lung Hernias
Lung hernias are fairly
and diagnose. The affected area is usually plainly
observed in a chest x-ray. In cases where the capabilities of
an x-ray are
insufficient, a CT (computed tomography) scan is able
to see the affected area in great detail. Doctors will look for
gap in the
thoracic wall or cervical membrane, or for a protrusion
or bulging shape in the lung.
Treating Lung Hernias
a conservative regimen might be sufficient to
provide relief. The patient is likely to respond to bed rest, analgesic
cough suppressants, infection fighters, and other
In the case of a more severe or a larger lung
will be the answer. While certainly an invasive
to correct the conditions leading to lung hernias
understood and highly successful. A doctor
basically returns the lung to its proper position and then stitches
up the opening or
reinforces the weakened area of the chest.
generally, is not the preferred treatment for lung hernias
in the cervical region, no matter how severe. But surgery is
for lung hernias involving the thoracic wall
Cough With Care
Of all the possible reasons for a person to develop a lung hernia, coughing is hard to take seriously. But it turns out that you can indeed tear a chest muscle or open an old incision with a sharp cough—and that can lead to a lung hernia. A cough may be harder to control than what amount of weight to lift (another way to tear a muscle). But it’s still smart to cough with care.