The incidence, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of pneumothorax in hospitalized COVID-19 patients: A systematic review

Authors: Woon H. Chong,a,⁎Biplab K. Saha,bKurt Hu,c and Amit Chopraa



Pneumothorax has been frequently described as a complication of COVID-19 infections.


In this systematic review, we describe the incidence, clinical characteristics, and outcomes of COVID-19-related pneumothorax.


Studies were identified through MEDLINE, Pubmed, and Google Scholar databases using keywords of “COVID-19,” “SARS-CoV-2,” “pneumothorax,” “pneumomediastinum,” and “barotrauma” from January 1st, 2020 to January 30th, 2021.


Among the nine observational studies, the incidence of pneumothorax is low at 0.3% in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. However, the incidence of pneumothorax increases to 12.8–23.8% in those requiring invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV) with a high mortality rate up to 100%. COVID-19-related pneumothorax tends to be unilateral and right-sided. Age, pre-existing lung diseases, and active smoking status are not shown to be risk factors. The time to pneumothorax diagnosis is around 9.0–19.6 days from admission and 5.4 days after IMV initiation. COVID-19-related pneumothoraces are associated with prolonged hospitalization, increased likelihood of ICU admission and death, especially among the elderly.


COVID-19-related pneumothorax likely signify greater disease severity. With the high variability of COVID-19-related pneumothorax incidence described, a well-designed study is required to better assess the significance of COVID-19-related pneumothorax.

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