Plate Like Atelectasis on Chest X-ray

Plate like atelectasis means that a small part of the lung has collapsed. There are other terms that radiologists use to describe this finding like discoid atelectasis, band like atelectasis and subsegmental atelectasis.  This means that the normally air filled alveoli are airless and collapsed.

Plate like atelectasis causes

Plate like atelectasis is almost always a benign finding.  It may happen because patients are not taking deep breaths.  This is most common after surgery, trauma to ribs, lung diseases, clots to the lungs in addition to other causes.  Plate like atelectasis is usually without symptoms but can sometimes cause chest discomfort, fever after surgery or pain.

Why does plate like atelectasis happen?

Plate like atelectasis may occur because the bronchial tube is blocked from mucus.  Less likely a growth or tumor.   It is possible that a small bronchial tube is blocked because of a growth and causes plate like atelectasis, but this is uncommonly seen in practice.

What does plate like atelectasis look like?

On chest X-ray, plate like atelectasis looks like a white line or band extending horizontally.  Plate like atelectasis usually has smooth margins.  Less commonly, it can look round or ovoid.  The distinction between atelectasis and a nodule or growth becomes difficult in these cases.  Often follow up studies will be needed.  The atelectasis will often resolve while growths gets bigger.

What else can look like plate like atelectasis?

Plate like atelectasis is unlikely to represent other diagnosis.  Sometimes scarring in the lung can look like a straight white line or plate like atelectasis.  Small white lines can be seen with some lung diseases or fluid in the lung.  Usually there are more then a few white lines in these cases.

What needs to be done about plate like atelectasis?

Radiologists rarely recommend workup or follow up for plate like atelectasis.  Perhaps if they see a concerning abnormality like a growth or nodule.  Often this finding is benign and at times not even described.  Other times, radiologists may place it into the body of the report.

Plate like atelectasis is therefore a benign collapse of a small portion of the lung.  It is rarely symptomatic and often of no consequence.  It is most likely to occur from shallow breathing,  most common after surgery and trauma to the ribs.


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