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Chest Trauma Management: Types of Chest Injuries

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A blow or direct hit to the chest can result in minor or serious injuries. It is not unusual to have the ‘wind knocked out of you’ or experience shortness of breath for a few minutes following a trauma. Chest injuries, if left untreated, can interfere with your breathing and circulation. Worse, they can be serious or life-threatening.

This blog post will elaborate on different types of chest injuries and discuss proper first aid treatment for each one. Chest injuries are difficult to manage, and victims usually require early advance medical attention. Thus, it is important for first aiders and bystanders not to delay calling for help.

 

What is a Chest Injury?

A chest injury is an injury that occurs in the chest wall or the bones, skin, fats, and muscles surrounding your lungs, including the ribs and sternum. It can also occur in any of the organs found inside the chest.

Chest injuries happen as a result of accidental or deliberate penetration of sudden force or foreign objects onto the chest. Blunt trauma to the chest can lead to wall injury that causes fractures, lung or heart contusions, and rib bruises.

After a chest injury, it is important to determine whether the pain you are experiencing is caused by a heart problem. If you do not exhibit heart attack or angina symptoms, the pain is most likely due to a chest injury.

To help you determine if you have one, here are the common types of chest injuries.

 

Fractured Ribs

Only a few things in the world hurt as much as having broken ribs. The ribs provide the entire structure. Hence, without it, we won’t be able to breathe. And when ribs break or sustain an injury, it results in pain and difficulty in breathing.

Signs and Symptoms of Fractured Ribs

  • Feeling of pain near or surrounding the chest, especially when breathing in
  • rapid, shallow breathing
  • ‘guarding’ of the injury

First Aid for Fractured Ribs

Check for any open injuries in the chest area. Then, place the arm on the affected side and make an elevation sling. Monitor and observe the victim for any breathing problems. If they are experiencing wrenching pain or are having trouble breathing, seek medical care immediately.

 

Penetrating (sucking) chest wound.

A penetrating (sucking) chest wound is characterised by having a hole open to the chest that can lead to a collapsed lung. It may be from an open wound left by an object, such as a stab wound or bullet wound.

In severe cases of a sucking chest wound, you can hear the air sucking in. But in more subtle cases, you just have to assume. For best practice, it is always safe to treat every hole in the chest as a sucking chest wound.

Signs and Symptoms of Penetrating Chest Wound

  • pale, cool, clammy skin
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • rapid, shallow breathing
  • cyanosis or bluish discolouration of the skin
  • moderate to severe pain at the site
  • onset of shock

First Aid for Sucking Chest Wound

The first thing to do is call for emergency medical help. While waiting for paramedics to arrive, stabilise the injury using a pad around the entry wound. If it is an open wound, apply plastic or non-stick pad. Put tape on three sides and leave the bottom part un-taped to allow air to escape from the chest. Check for other injuries as you wait for emergency help to arrive.

 

Flail Chest

Flail chest is a rib injury where a section of the chest has been detached due to one or multiple rib fractures. It is often a result of major trauma such as a motor vehicle accident or a serious fall. In a flail chest, there is an associated collapsed lung or pneumothorax. Flail chest is considered a serious, life-threatening injury due to its complication and the likelihood of other injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of Flail Chest

  • pale, cool, clammy skin
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • shallow, difficult breathing
  • paradoxical chest movements (the area of injury moves in the opposite direction to the rest of the chest)
  • cyanosis or bluish discolouration
  • pain, especially when breathing in

First Aid for Flail Chest

Check for any open injuries near and in the chest as you call emergency services for help. While waiting, check for other injuries that may occur. If there is major trauma, do not move the victim unless they are unconscious. By then, you can move them into the recovery position.

Chest Injuries are painful but often can be treated at home if no other symptoms develop. Get trained and enrol in a first aid course to know more about how to treat chest injuries.

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