Tools and Resources

Hyperinflated lungs: What does it mean?

A recent chest X-ray showed that I have hyperinflated lungs. What could cause this?

Hyperinflated lungs can be caused by obstructions in the passages that deliver air to your lung tissue. Air gets trapped within the lung and causes it to overinflate. Hyperinflation can also occur when the air sacs in your lungs become less elastic, which interferes with the expulsion of air from your lungs.

One of the most common causes of hyperinflated lungs is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) a disorder that includes emphysema. Lung problems such as asthma and cystic fibrosis can also cause hyperinflation.

In some cases, lungs may appear hyperinflated on X-rays for reasons unrelated to lung function. If you aren't experiencing shortness of breath, there's probably nothing to worry about. But the only way to know whether you have something that causes truly hyperinflated lungs is to do a lung function test. If your lung function is abnormal, you should see a lung specialist to identify and treat the underlying problem.

Updated: 12/15/2011

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "EmbodyHealth," "Enhance your life," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

Legal restrictions and terms of use applicable to content provided to this site by MayoClinic.com/Mayo Clinic Health Information. Use thereof signifies your agreement to these terms of use.