Atelectasis is defined as the lack of gas exchange within alveoli, due to alveolar collapse or fluid consolidation. It may affect part or all of one lung. It is a condition where the alveoli are deflated, as distinct from pulmonary consolidation.
It is a very common finding in chest x-rays and other radiological studies. It may be caused by normal exhalation or by several medical conditions. Although frequently described as a collapse of lung tissue, atelectasis is not synonymous with a pneumothorax, which is a more specific condition that features atelectasis. Acute atelectasis may occur as a post-operative complication or as a result of surfactant deficiency. In premature neonates, this leads to infant respiratory distress syndrome.
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