A flail chest is defined as an injury that arises after sustaining blunt trauma to the chest. Once 3 or more ribs in a row sustained multiple fractures, it can cause a section of the chest wall to separate from the entire chest wall. This is considered as a medical emergency due to the possibility for lung injuries.
What are the indications?
Flail chest can manifest in various ways depending on its seriousness. If brought about by significant chest trauma, some of these signs include:
- Intense chest pain or discomfort
- Difficulty breathing
- Tenderness in the site where bone has detached
- Bruising and inflammation
- Uneven rise or fall of the chest while breathing
Management of a flail chest
Flail chest is considered as a serious injury and requires prompt treatment. The doctor will guard the lungs while making sure that the individual could breathe satisfactorily. An oxygen mask is given to help with breathing along with drugs to ease the pain.
In serious cases which is linked to an underlying lung injury, the individual is placed on a mechanical ventilator to ensure stability of the chest cavity. In some instances, surgery is necessary depending on the seriousness of the damage.
The recovery period for a flail chest tends to vary. The recovery might be based on the type of injury, site and if there are complications present. For less serious cases, full recovery can be achieved within 6 weeks. Severe cases can take up to a year to recover. Most with the injury continue to experience issues for life.
Quick Note / Disclaimer
The material posted on this page on a flail chest is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the signs, register for a first aid and CPR course with Toronto First Aid.