I left the manservant in charge of the kingdom after “cashing” in some of his frequent flyer miles to fly to Australia last Monday. After a few hours sleep, and a lot of caffeine, I accompanied my son to see a specialist about his recent spontaneous pneumothorax.
Apparently the economist was born with congenital blebs which are air-filled blisters/cysts on the surface of his lungs. These are typically on the apex (top) of the lungs and as mentioned before are more likely in tall, thin individuals- though the exact reason for this is not known.
Because these blebs are just like a thin walled blister they can rupture, which leaks air into the chest cavity – this air changes the pressure inside the chest cavity and causes the lung to be pushed away from the chest wall and so to collapse.
This generally occurs in the age group 20-40 and occurs during “strenuous” activity. The highest incidences occur in young men in the 20-30 year range, a time when young men are more likely to be involved in this “strenuous” activity. After 30 they are getting lazier and after 40 apparently there is so little “strenuous” activity that it is unlikely to occur or re-occur.
Having had it happen once there is a 30% chance that it will re-occur and if so most likely in the 12 months after the first occurrence. If it does happen again it will be “spontaneous” as before – there will be no warning signs or symptoms to watch out for – but, as the Professor mentioned, “he will certainly know what it is” (alluding to the delay between it happening and my son seeking medical attention before!).
Anyway – if it happens a second time they will do surgery where the blebs are removed and the lung stapled off. The procedure is called thoracoscopy, bleb resection, and talc pleurodesis. Under thoracoscopy an endoscope (camera) is inserted into the chest through a small incision – the bleb is removed (he made it sound like it is “sanded” away) and the section of lung under the bleb/s is sealed or stapled.
The second part of the surgery is pleurodesis where the lung is “glued” to the chest wall so that it cannot separate from the chest wall in the future. A special type of talc and something called bleomycin is used. This is apparently 98% successful at preventing a further pneumothorax.
So, after all the big words, the professor said that in a couple of weeks the economist can start easing himself back into his “strenuous” activities and continue on as normal.
But, the Professor added “you should never take up scuba diving”…..
My son asked: “What about sky diving?”
Heaven help me! Looks like I’ll be drinking for years!
(I am travelling without a laptop and my kids and parents have limited download internet plans so please excuse my lack of attention here for another week – I leave here on Saturday).