What’s a pneumothorax?

It’s hard describing how we do things here at Sherpaa. Stories always help!

So, with every client’s permission, we’re sharing real life stories that happened here at Sherpaa.

We received a phone call from a client complaining of sudden onset shoulder and back pain that was worse upon taking breaths. Based on the series of standardized questions we ask each and every patient with these symptoms, we narrowed our potential diagnoses to musculoskeletal back pain vs. a pneumothorax. A pneumothorax (pl. pneumothoraces) is an abnormal collection of air or gas in the pleural space that separates the lung from the chest wall and which may interfere with normal breathing. It can be a serious emergency and we needed to act fast. We had three options:

  • Immediately send this client to the ER
  • An urgent care center
  • Or directly to the radiologist

We knew the absolute fastest way to determine if this was a pneumothorax was sending this patient directly to the radiologist. So we called up the radiologist and within 30 minutes the patient went to the radiologist and we had the results. Fortunately, there was no pneumothorax. It was just muscle pain and we had the gold standard test to prove it.

If we would have sent the client to the ER or the urgent care center:

  • They would have asked the same questions and done a physical exam
  • Test: Chest X-ray
  • Time: 8 hours in the ER or an hour and half in the urgent care center
  • Cost: $1500 in the ER or $500 in the urgent care center

But we asked all the right questions over the phone, skipped the physical exam because the physical exam isn’t the gold standard, and sent the client directly to the radiologist for a $40 chest x-ray saving all kinds of inconveniences and money. And we confidently ruled out something scary. We treated his muscle pain and we’ve been in regular contact with him via email and we’re happy to report he’s now almost all better less than 24 hours later.

We simply rethink how healthcare is delivered and we make it speedier, more convenient, and less expensive.

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