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Pneumothorax From Air Travel Rare Among Lung Patients

Just 2.9 percent of lymphangioleiomyomatosis patients suffer pneumothorax after air travel

MONDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with interstitial lung diseases have only a slight risk of experiencing pneumothorax as the result of traveling by air or land, according to a study in the September issue of Chest.

Angelo M. Taveira-DaSilva, M.D., of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues reviewed medical records and imaging studies for 449 patients who had traveled to the National Institutes of Health, including 281 with lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), 92 with sarcoidosis, and 76 with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The patient groups were evaluated for the prevalence of pneumothorax associated with air and land travel.

The researchers found that the 449 patients made a cumulative 1,232 trips to the National Institutes of Health, including 816 trips by air (299 patients) and 416 trips by land (150 patients). Among the LAM patients, there were 16 instances of pneumothorax, 14 among patients who traveled by air and two among those who traveled by land. Seven of the episodes in the LAM patients were new pneumothoraces, while nine were chronic pneumothoraces. The frequency of a new pneumothorax for LAM patients who traveled by airplane was 2.9 percent and by ground transportation was 1.3 percent. There were no instances of pneumothorax among the IPF or sarcoidosis patients.

"In interstitial lung diseases with a high prevalence of spontaneous pneumothorax, there is a relatively low risk of pneumothorax following air travel. In LAM, the presence of a pneumothorax associated with air travel may be related to the high incidence of pneumothorax and not to travel itself," the authors write.

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