All You Need to Know about Bibasilar Atelectasis

The human lung is one of the most essential organs in humans, but it also hosts some horrific conditions and diseases. Atelectasis is one of the conditions where the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs deflate abnormally. In this case, the outcome is a complete or partial collapse of the lung(s). Usually, this complication arises after surgery. The grave implications of atelectasis are immediately apparent as it impairs the amount of oxygen within the body.

Bibasilar atelectasis affects the left and right bottom parts of the lungs. This article will explain in detail its causes, symptoms as well as treatments so that you can better deal with or prevent this condition.

What Is Bibasilar Atelectasis?

Basilar atelectasis is the name given to the condition, in which either a part of the lung or the entire lung collapses due to a hindrance. This condition affects both the left and right lungs. It can be chronic or acute, preventing the respiratory exchange of oxygen and dioxide. Because of the collapsing of the lungs, another condition known as bibasilar scarring occurs in that part of the lung. Another derivation of this condition is bibasilar sub-segmental atelectasis, which results in the compression or disintegration of a part of the lung distal to blocked segmental bronchus.

What Happens in Basilar Atelectasis?

Knowing about the lung is vital when learning about basilar atelectasis. A human body has a pair of lungs, situated on the left and right sides of the chest. Contrary to common sense, both lungs are not identical; in fact, the left lung has only two partitions, compared to the three of the right lung. Both lungs contain tiny air sacs commonly referred to as alveoli. These sacs are filled with blood vessels, and are constantly involved in gas exchange.

When the bottom of the lung (right or left) collapses because of an obstruction, it causes gas exchange to halt. This condition is known as basilar atelectasis.

Watch a video more information of Atelectasis and Basilar Atelectasis:

Symptoms of Bibasilar Atelectasis


Usually, the symptoms of atelectasis are hard to pin down as they are similar to those of other diseases or conditions and can be mistaken to be signs of something else. The symptoms of atelectasis are usually:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rapid or shallow breathing (similar to breathing after any strenuous workout)
  • Coughing
  • Low fever


The complications resulting from atelectasis can be quite disturbing. They include:

  • Low blood oxygen (hypoxemia): this happens because atelectasis hampers the amount of oxygen the alveoli receive.
  • Pneumonia: one of the reasons for atelectasis is plugs of mucus. The mucus within a lung affected by atelectasis is an attractive hotbed for various bacterial infections. This can lead to pneumonia.
  • Lung scarring: after a lung has collapsed, it needs to be re-inflated. Re-inflation, however, at times, fails to heal all the damage and scarring, which in turn may cause bronchiectasis.
  • Respiratory failure: Atelectasis covering a small area is usually curable. Having atelectasis as an adult is comparatively better, in infants (and even adults with lung diseases), it can prove to be lethal if it covers enough area.

See your doctor immediately if you experience any problems breathing.

Causes of Bibasilar Atelectasis

Atelectasis, more often than not, results from blocked airways. Since, anesthesia hampers the regular airflow-pattern of the lungs, causing a change in absorption of gases. This, in turn, plays a part in the collapsing of the alveoli in the lungs. The other reasons for an obstruction in the lungs (obstructive atelectasis) include:

  • Foreign body: any foreign object, which gets inhaled rather than ingested, can cause a collapse of the lungs.
  • Mucus plug: during surgery, the drugs injected into the patient cause the lungs to have decreased inflation, prompting the mucus to collect in the airways. An ordinary, medical practice of suction of the lungs helps curb this situation; though, the mucus may keep developing afterwards. This is one of the reasons doctors suggest deep breathing exercises during recovery. Mucus plugs are also found in people suffering from cystic fibrosis, and asthma.
  • Blood clot: suffering from severe physical trauma can cause blood to spill out inside the lungs, which, sometimes can’t be coughed out
  • Narrowing of major airways from disease: diseases, like tuberculosis and fungal infection, can give rise to scarring in the lungs which constricts the airways.
  • Tumor in a major airway: since a tumor is already an obstruction, it can cause atelectasis.

Possible Causes of Non-obstructive Atelectasis Include:

  • Injury: Any serious injury can cause the victim to have reduced breathing due to the pain exhibited. This can lead to compression of the lungs, causing atelectasis.
  • Pneumothorax. Air from lungs gets into the space between lungs and chest wall, indirectly causing a little or whole of the lung to get damaged.

Diagnosis of Bibasilar Atelectasis

The most common method to detect atelectasis is an x-ray as it can show any sort of obstruction within the lungs. Other tests include CT scans, ultrasounds, oximetry tests and bronchoscopy.

Treatments of Bibasilar Atelectasis

The treatment is highly dependent on the condition. If only a small area has been affected, no treatment might be required. If there is an outside obstruction, like a tumor, the treatment focuses on removing or shrinking the obstruction.

Most doctors advise coughing, deep breathing exercises and postural drainage after surgery to help re-inflate the lungs.

Medicines, like Foradil (given to patients with bronchitis) expand the bronchial tubes, making it easier to breathe. Acetadote is used to make the mucus thin and easier to cough up.

It’s important to know that smoking can increase mucus production and damage the wall. It is essentially important to stop smoking in order to prevent the condition to get worse and prevent it from happening in the first place.

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