Saturday, March 21, 2009

For You, The Fans - Part 2

This next item on the list of top 5 weird keywords and phrases is destined to be a classic. You see, just as Cleopatra with Antony, I have a special history with this item; we go way back. Pray that you will never be able to say the same, et je mai présente:
ouch, pneuma thorax, pneuma-thorax, pneumo thorax, pneumothorax

2) Pneumothorax - (211 hits in 2 months)

Ah! The fabled pneumothorax, what a wonderful name for something so horrible. To sum it up, let's take a look at the name: Pneuma (meaning 'of air') and Thorax ('abdomen'). Essentially, with grade-two logic applied, we have air in the abdomen.

God help this man!An oddity in the library of human afflictions, pneumothorax is a medical condition that strikes at random, affecting a specific clientele; namely males, aged between 16 and 28, who all fit the same physical profile: tall, thin, and with no prior history of any related condition. Now, you'd be right in thinking it's painful. Yes, it is painful. It's a collapsed lung, for cying out loud.

Pneumothorax - or the 'tear' it causes - often occurs at the apex (topmost point) of the lung - yes, either one, it can hit anyone in the aforementioned demographic, and tends to do so at random (a veritable mystery-grab-bag of fun).

Symptoms: First symptoms include a tightness in the chest, followed by difficulty breathing, and then a God-awful and extremely sharp pain under the shoulder-blade (feels somewhat like a small knife lodged under the bone). Actually, the pain is from the lung itself, but seeing as you've never experienced pain in a lung before, it feels like it's the shoulder-blade. Either way, ouch.

Briefly: Your lung is like a balloon inside a balloon, lungs sit inside pleural (lung) cavities. Your breathing is controlled by both an unconscious process (ie, automatically by your brain), and pressure inside the lung cavity forcing the lung to re-inflate after each breath. When you get a tear or hole, air in the lung leaks, and is sucked into, the lung-cavity, causing a bubble in your chest. Should your lung deflate too much, it will start to put pressure on your heart. A great situation to be in, especially if you have a needle lying around and are just dying to reenact that scene from Pulp-Fiction.

Treatment: Ok, this one is tough to cope with - but bear with me. If you're one of the lucky ones, an hour or so of sitting somewhere and calmly controlling your breathing can get rid of the pain, and within a week or so of taking it easy the hole itself will heal up, leaving you a free man once more.

Notice I said 'lucky ones'. See, pneumothorax is a beast of a different breed, and it works on the 3-point system. If you get it once and recover, you'll generally be fine, (though space-travel, submarines and scuba-diving are unfortunately red 'X's on your to-do list now - the Swedish word 'förbjuden' springs to mind). Should you get a recurring hole, you're pretty screwed, in fact each time the condition returns, there's a 50% chance it will happen again. Once you've had it three times*, surgery is recommended to fix it up. Mazal tov.

Now, there are three types of surgery you can get to fix it, but none of them are particularly pleasant.

1) Staples. Yep, in go the surgeons, click click, and you're the proud recipient of some tiny titanium staples in your chest for life. Good thing they aren't magnetic, or you'd have a great time explaining yourself next time you go through LAX...

2) Talc. This is for less-severe cases. You still get to be a surgeon's plaything for a few hours though. This time they go in and sprinkle some substance akin to 'Johnson's Baby Powder' on the lung which is meant to reduce friction, making it difficult for the lung to catch on the lung-cavity wall causing worse tears. It's not permanent, but it's supposed to heal the wound before it gets serious, rather than closing the hole forcefully.

3) Heat it up, baby! Cauterization is number three. Yep, this is a pleasant one for sure. Surgeon's are GO, hot prong is GO. You unconscious, had better be GO too. Basically the idea here is to use that prong to sear the hole shut, therefore causing strong scar-tissue to form and securing your passage into land of the able-lunged once more. Sure it's a slightly antiquated and barbaric process, but hey, we all have to get our kicks somehow.

And there you have it, an encyclopaedic guide to the world that is pneumothoraxes**.

Part 3 coming soon.


* It happened to me 6 times before getting an op. I would have got it operated on sooner, but my Canadian Healthcare insurance didn't go through for almost 3 months, yay beaurocracy.

** (A more expansive page on the topic can be found here.) Information in this entry has been gathered by myself from being curious, talking to many doctors, and well, from y'know, having the condition myself. But, as with all things, make sure you talk to a doctor rather than taking advice from this blog, medical tech changes day to day, so do treatments and analyses, and a doctor I am not!

6 thoughts are now mine:

rbo said...

Huh. I wonder if I've been having mild cases of this over the past few years. They rarely seem to last longer than 20 minutes or so, but do make breathing quite painful.

Then again, maybe it's just clogged arteries/heart attacks/temporary punishment for being tall and thin, which otherwise ain't so bad....

Perhaps after my Cirque du Soleil party, a Pneumothorax diagnosis party is in order!

Jimzip said...

! Geez I hope not. I have a feeling you'd know pretty soon if it was or not though. It's just like I mentioned, very sharp pain under the shoulder (if it's on the top of your lung), and breathing gets quite shallow and painful. :/

I made the mistake of trying to 'stretch it out' when it first happened, which made it much worse... haha.

Jimzip :D

Dale said...

Ouch! Which delightful operation did you have? The burning one? I'd never heard of the condition until now

The only unexplainable pain I have is an incapacitatingly sharp stabbing in my chest that lasts for 10-20 seconds then goes away completely. Has only happened a handful of times in my life though, and mainly when I was younger.

That's my story. :P

Luke said...

hmm, I was going to guess the staples one. So who wins? (I do not turn everything into a competition!)

I'm really enjoying this series of posts - informative and yet still fun (the writing is fun, I mean, not the you being in pain part!) Plus, the last two post will genuinely be useful for people that stumbled onto your site looking for specific info - perhaps I should follow your lead and post some XXX photos of Ashton Kutcher on my blog for all the people that arrived via that search in google...

Jimzip said...

Hahah. Yeah thanks Luke, I was hoping to make them both informative for those that need the info, and entertaining for those that don't. :)

And to settle that little competition, yes, I got the staples.

Jimzip :D

Jimzip said...

Oh and Dale, good to know you don't get that any more!

Jimzip :D

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