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September 2, 2004

BehindTheMedspeak: Loud music can cause lung collapse


The current issue of the medical journal Thorax details four cases in which fans of loud music experienced a collapsed lung, known in the business (mine, not rock) as a pneumothorax.

In one case, doctors linked a man's sudden chest pain and breathlessness while driving to a 1,000 watt bass box fitted into his car.

I guess heavy metal really can make you sick, even if you don't eat or drink it.

Read the excellent BBC News report. [via KK]


Loud music lung collapse warning

It's not just damage to hearing that clubbers should worry about

Loud music can do more than damage your hearing - it can also cause your lungs to collapse.

Experts writing in the Thorax detail four cases where loud music fans experienced the condition, known as a pneumothorax.

One man was driving when he experienced a pneumothorax, characterised by breathlessness and chest pain.

Doctors linked it to a 1,000 watt "bass box" fitted to his car to boost the power of his stereo.

A pneumothorax occurs when air gets into the space between the lung and the membrane that covers it when small breaks occur in the lung wall.

It is thought the intense pulses of low-frequency, high-energy sound causes the lung to rupture because air and tissue respond differently to sound.

The usual risk factors for collapsed lungs are smoking, illness that has weakened the patient, chronic obstructive lung disease or use of drugs that depress alertness or consciousness, such as sedatives, barbiturates, tranquilizers, or alcohol.

In a minority of cases, the oxygen supply to the vital organs is seriously diminished and the patient's life can be put at risk.

A pneumothorax is treated by inserting a tube called a chest drain to allow air to escape from the chest cavity.

In a second case detailed in Thorax, a 25-year-old smoker saw doctors after experiencing a sudden severe pain in the left side of this chest while standing next to a loud speaker in a club.

A third man, a 23-year-old non-smoker, experienced a collapsed lung while attending a pop concert, where he was standing quietly near to several large loud speakers.

In the final case outlined in the journal, a 23-year-old regular smoker had suffered pneumothorax on several occasions.

During a follow-up consultation, where doctors were talking to him about what could have led up to each incident, he revealed that on two of the four occasions, he had been attending a heavy metal concert when he became ill.

Dr John Harvey, of Southmead Hospital in Bristol, who wrote the Thorax report, with colleagues from Belgium, told BBC News Online: "I don't think we'll stop people going to clubs, but we may be able to advise them not to stand next to loud speakers or put a bass box into their car."

Dr Harvey added: "A typical district hospital might see about 50 patients a year in casualty.

"We can't estimate how common loud music is as a cause, but it is probably quite significant.

"The condition is three times commoner in men than in women, and a proportion of sufferers may have been clubbing or standing next to a bass box at a pop concert."

Dr Harvey added: "Both my Belgian colleagues and I have seen cases and the more we mention it, the more people say 'I had a case like that'.

"So we're flagging it up so that doctors can ask the right questions."

September 2, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink


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Tracked on Sep 2, 2009 2:40:03 AM


Just proves that music has to be soothing and rythmic.

A lot of brain damage probably occurs to fans of heavy metal and acid rock. Err... you got to have a damaged brain to make sense of most of acid rock anyway :)

Posted by: sanjay mittal | Jul 14, 2008 5:10:07 AM

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