Atelectasis occurs most frequently after surgery and is a major concern for acute care nurses. Patients with abdominal and/or thoracic surgery are the most susceptible, especially in the older age group. The duration of the surgery is also a risk factor. Patients in surgery for more than 4 hours have a 50% incidence of severe atelectasis, compared with a 19% incidence for those in surgery for 2 hours. Other causes of atelectasis are mucous plugs in patients who smoke heavily and inflammation from inflammatory lung disease. Atelectasis also occurs in patients with central nervous system depression following a drug overdose or a critical cerebral event such as a cerebrovascular accident.

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