Pneumothorax like symptoms 1 year on from surgery

Posted , 18 users are following.

Hi I am just looking to speak to people in the same situation really, and whether anybody can give me any advice. I am a 21 year old female who first started getting spontanius pneumothorax's when i was 19 on both lungs. Last year (when I was 20) they operated on both lungs, on seperate occassions, to perform a bullectomy, pleurodesis and pleuroectomy. (Top marks for remembering the names!) I am now one year on from having the surgery, like others that I have read about on here, I also have the sharp pains on both sides sometimes. They are normally like a sharp stabbing pain for about 30 seconds and then it goes. (Something to do with nerve damage from the operations I have been told). However, the reason why I am writing on here is that yesterday the dreading air bubble sound in my chest came and I was feeling a bit of pain (exactly like the symptoms from my other pneumothorax's). So, I went down to a and e, had an xray which came back fine. However, I woke up this morning, the pain was slightly worse, and the air bubbling sound is still there. I dont know what to do. I feel silly going back to a and e, like im being paranoid or something? Its the air bubbling sound that really worries me though? Has anyone else had a similar experience after surgery? Surely my lung can't be collapsing again after having all 3 procedures on both sides? I would be very grateful for any advice or to hear similar experiences!

1 like, 28 replies

28 Replies

  • Posted


    I am not in the same situation, but I want to at least reply and share my thoughts. I'd imagine any kind of talk with somebody that's been through something similar can't hurt smile

    First off, don't feel silly - NEVER feel silly. Better siilly than sorry. Go as often as you're concerned and as often as you need this weight lifted off your shoulders so you can continue and have a normal life. Don't burden yourself, please.

    Furthermore when I had the same thing happening to me before I got the surgery (a few weeks after my 2nd pneumothorax whcih required a chest drain) I was right to do so as there was a tiny colapse of 5%. That's how I ended up getting the surgery. 

    It is common for people to experience penumothorax-like symptoms without actually having the problem. There's little medical explanation behind it apart from the mind playing tricks on you, nerve damage, irritation or scar tissue forming/falling. 

    Two weeks after the surgery I've heen to the A&E already because of the most horrendous sound coming from below the ribs on the operated side. I don't know if it can be called blubling or gurgling or whatever, but it usually happens in the morning (if I haven't eaten, perhaps?) when I'm breathing deeply and you can literally hear it from feet away. It sounds like organs or tissue is/are rubbing   eachother.  I've also started having shoulder pain when sitting (on a chair), very similar to what you experience after the collapses (are you familiar with this?). The xray was completely clear and there's nothing there. The doctors have no explanation for these new symptoms that appeared suddently 2 weeks after the surgery. 

    I'd imagine this is not what you want to hear but unfortunately it is still possible to get the pneumothorax even after surgery. You'd have to be extremely unlucky but none of us are ever 100% in the clear.

    Good luck,


    • Posted

      Hi thanks for your reply, it's really nice to speak to people who have been through similar things! 

      This happened a couple of months to me now, I ended up going back to a and e several times because I had a continuous mild pain and that horrible popping/bubbling types noise constantly! Fortunately there was no collapse, and I put it down to new medication I was taking, nobody ever said this was what caused it, must as soon as I came off them everything returned to normal, and since I've had no more pain smile 

      As for your situation, I know exactly what you mean by the popping bubbling type sound, it's horrible and can be very scary! But back when I had my ops last year, both times I continued to have the sound for a good couple of weeks after each op. My surgeon told me it was just my lungs repairing after the op. I also had sharp pains every couple of hours, and I continue to have them every couple of days but i have been told it's just never damage after the op smile what surgery did you have? 

      Thanks for the reply smile 

  • Posted

    Hi girl!

    Really happy to hear you're well, in no pain, and everything is in order. These things can be very freaky and put a lot of strain on you psichologically.

    I had lobectomy on the left lung (~30% was cut off) and mechanical pleurodesis (theyv'e scrapped my lung with instruments and hurt it on purpose to form scar tissue). 

    Doctors said the upper part of the lung was no longer working and had giant bullaes (I was a smoker before as well, althought this wasn't the cause, I've been told it hinders air/liquid to be reabsorbed by the lung in case of a leak).

    The rest of the lung still has bullaes, but he said he couldn't have cut more because I would've had no lung left. So he said I should expect others popping - so some pain - but no collapse due to the surgery. 

    Have you experienced any shoulder pain post-op? Not the shoulder blade pain per se which is very common but more the neck, clavicle and humerus (I had to google these bones :P).

    I also have a dip below the ribs on the operated side. Apparently my lung (being now 30% shorter) could be a bit lifted - lol. I need to gain some weight asap, looks like I have a hole there :P

    Take care of yourself girl and stay strong,


    • Posted

      Sounds like you had a similar op to me! I had around 20 percent cut off on both sides. But I have had no shoulder pain at all from what I can remember, even in hospital I don't think my shoulder hurt! I have no dip either, lol! 

      Yes you too, hope your recovery goes smoothly smile 

  • Posted

    I see this chat is like 3 years old. Wondering if any of you are still on here. I'm experiencing the same sound you all describe and its driving me nuts. I have an appt set with specialist in 30 days. I'm just curious if you all could tell me if 3 years later you still have these sounds and bubbling. Please if your out there let me know smile

    • Posted

      Hey, I had a pneumothorax on 10/20/17 and surgery one week ago, I have same bubbling cracking going on in my chest!  I literally just left the doctors right this second, they told me it was nothing to be concerned about but I really wish it would go away. Please let me know if you find out anything different !
    • Posted

      My surgery was in May. It started in late August, went away in mid sept. and now is back. I have stressed myself out and self diagnosed. I think Pleural friction rub sounds very much like what I'm dealing with. A friend who broke some ribs said they told her to take anti inflammatory, so Im doing that. I so want a solution, I don't want to be put in hospital in Kansas City and I don't want to live with this any longer. Glad to know your doc told you not to worry, hope I get that same answer.

    • Posted

      I realized after setting up an account to comment that this site is in the UK, I’m in the US. Either way, I too had a lung biopsy (surgery) exactly one year ago and just tonight heard a bubbling sound exactly like when the chest tube was in there, not as loud though. I was laying on my surgical side. My daughter said it sounded like a little amount of water running, or a stream (bubbling) I think. Very odd. I know the cracking or popping noise you might be hearing right after surgery could be your body expelling or absorbing the additional air pockets that may be trapped. I had a lot that would move to the skin tissue around my neck/chest and I could push on the area and they would crackle. It looked and felt swollen, like a bug bite. It was just air and a side effect of being opened up for surgery. 
    • Posted


      I'm in the U.S. as well. Heading to Kansas City today for an appt with a specialist. My bubbling noise started in late Aug. and comes and goes. It has been gone for 7 days but back today just in time for a doc appt. I just hope in some way it is normal and that I don't end up in a hospital. Keep me posted.

  • Posted

    Hello everyone, hoping some of you are still on this conversation and can help me out as well. This is all new to me, I am a 21 year old female that has been through hell and back it seems. On November 13th i experienced my first ever pneumothorax being that my right lung was collapsed at 90% they inserted a chest tube in the ER,( a small thurovent, in the front of my chest ) without medication at the time I was 11 weeks pregnant. Had that tube removed the following Friday and returned to work Monday. At noon it all felt like deja vu it happened again my lung was collapsed at 50% and the front chest tube was placed again, 12 weeks pregnant and had it removed Friday. Took an extra three days off work and returned the following Thursday. Thursday night after returning home from work I had started having a little trouble breathing again. The crackly bubbly in and out but tried to talk myself out of it being once again a pneumothorax. I held off until 5am that morning and went to the ER because I knew something wasn’t right. They x-rayed me and decided that they were not going to play the waiting game and put me through the chest tube again. They transferred me to st. Helena where I was seen by a Cardiothoracic specialist. I had what they call a VAT done which is a video assisted thoracic surgery. (Plurodesis, to roughin up the lung to make it stick back to the chest wall) I was in the hospital for two days afterwards. The day after surgery they removed the 14 inch with chest tube from my back/side and they discharged me the following day. My question for you all is before all this I started with a harsh bronchial cough which was the reason I gave myself the spontaneous pneumothorax in the beginning.. after the surgery I coughed a very wet light cough that dr explained was a good thing getting all the excess air out and healing from the procedure. I have been home for not even 24 hours and I’m experiencing the crackly bubbly breathing when lying down but propped up a bit, and lots of coughing, some wet loose but turning into that deep bronchial cough again. Is this normal? Should I be afraid it’s going to happen again? Please any advice would help thank you! 
    • Posted

      Hi Emmy, it sounds like you have a lot more going on than I did when my symptoms first started. I was in the hospital after surgery for 5 days, with a wet cough and lots of cracking. I kept thinking the coughing would dislodge the chest tube but that was actually what they wanted me to do in order for my lungs to get strong enough to hold up without the chest tube. So I’m thinking you should definitely still be coughing. Your lungs are a muscle. Did they give you a breathing tool to measure and help expand your lungs? I still use breathing exercises because I have a lot of anxiety when I feel like I can’t breathe. I hope some of this helps and you’re feeling better.
    • Posted

      I hope you a better now. I encourage you to look up a disease called Lymphangioleiomyomatosis  (LAM)

      It only strikes women and causes the lungs to collapse. I have had both lungs collapse in the past 3 years. My doc did a CT scan and saw the cysts, a biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. It is also hell on pregnant women. I had the VATs on my right lung this May. In late Aug. the bubbling noise started. I did not experience this with the left the lung in 2014. after weeks of freakign out and fear, I made it to a LAM doc in Kansas City in Nov. he showed me a part of my right lung was collapsed. So I have just finished 5 weeks of doing very little, no stairs, bowling etc. On Monday the X-ray showed all was better but I still have noise. I went ahead and bowled this week, now the noise is a little worse than on Monday. I'm totally frustrated. Breathing is normal but noise isn't. I'm wondering if this noise is just going to be a part of life. It sucks. But do check out LAM and or even call the LAM Foundation, there is a website for them you can find by googling, and make sure you do not have it. If you do, you need to seek a LAM doc ASAP and get treatment started.

  • Posted

    I am having this problem too...I just had a VATS done on my right side for the second time when my left side started hurting again. Also had one done on that side two, only 4 years ago and this really concerns me. There is no bubbling sounds, just mild pain that resembles a pneumo. I am so scared and feel like I'm going crazy because I've had two xrays in the last two weeks and both came back clean. It's a 4-7% recurrence rate after VATS, but what are the chances of it recurrence on both lungs within a month? 

    I am 20 years old and trying to finish up a semester. I am really scared I won't even be able to do so..

    Please if this discussion is still active, tell me if these strange pains were the symptoms of another collapse or just nothing.

    • Posted

      You probably had a bleb that just popped. I myself have this from time to time. 

      The VATS surgery and pleurodesis makes your lung adjerent to your chest wall, it does nothing to your condition. You can still have blebs and pop from time to time. Give it a few days, bed rest, take some advil and it should heal itself. 

      Hope you feel better!

    • Posted

      Thanks for the reply! 

      That's the first news that has been encouraging. I hope that is the case, this has been going on for about two weeks now, although I had an xray done last monday and there was no pneumo. 

      I am going to see another doctor tomorrow to see if it has gotten worse, but at this point I feel like I am being very paranoid.

    • Posted

      That also happens to me. I feel this sharp back and chest pain identical to a pneumo,I go to the hospital to get an xray and it shows clear. It’s the worst. 

      I recommend a few things. Lay off the stress, drink more water, add apples into your diet, also look into ginseng heard it’s great for your lungs. 

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