Respiratory System Case Study 2*


John, a healthy twenty-eight year old electrical engineer, was driving home from work one evening when he experienced sudden stabbing pain on the right side of his chest.  He began to feel out of breath and both his respiratory rate and heart rate increased dramatically.  He was able to get himself to the emergency room of a local hospital.  The emergency room physician listened to John’s breathing with a stethoscope and requested blood gas analysis and a chest   x-ray. The doctor noted that John had no history of heart or respiratory problems but was a heavy smoker.  After viewing the chest x-ray, the doctor informed John that he had experienced a spontaneous pneumothorax, or what is commonly called a collapsed lung. He instructed John to quit smoking, avoid high altitudes, flying in nonpressurized aircraft, and scuba diving.





1.      Describe the mechanics of breathing. Include the relationship between pressure and volume. How are oxygen and carbon dioxide transported in the blood?  


2. Explain the cause(s) of spontaneous pneumothorax.


3.        Define the following terms and explain how they may have been affected by John’s spontaneous pneumothorax.


a.         Visceral pleura

b.         Parietal pleura

c.              Pleural cavity

d.             Alveolar pressure


4.        As a result of a pneumothorax, the lung tissues recoil, and the lung collapses. Explain how recoil and collapse are prevented in a healthy lung?


5.        Why did the collapsed lung result in increased respiratory rate?



6 .       What treatment options would the doctor have performed on John to alleviate his condition?

7.        Why was John instructed to avoid high altitudes, flying in nonpressurized aircraft and scuba diving?


*adapted from McGraw Hill Online Learning Center, Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology,3rd ed.Seely/Stephens/Tate