Often, no treatment is needed because the body will gradually absorb the air. Breathing high concentrations of oxygen may speed up this process.
The doctor may put in a chest tube if you also have a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). Surgery is needed to repair a hole in the trachea or esophagus.
The outlook depends on the disease or events that caused the pneumomediastinum.
The air may build up and enter the space around the lungs (pleural space), causing the lung to collapse.
More rarely, air may enter the area between the heart and the thin sac that surrounds the heart. This is called a pneumopericardium.
In other rare cases, so much air builds up in the middle of the chest that it pushes on the heart and the great blood vessels, making them unable to work properly.
All of these complications require urgent attention.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have severe chest pain or difficulty breathing.
Park DR, Vallieres E. Pneumomediastinum and mediastinitis. In: Mason RJ, Broaddus VC, Martin TR, et al, eds. Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010: chap 77.
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