Chest Trauma – Personal Injuries

Physical trauma is a serious injury caused by a sudden energy transfer of an external force (i.e. motor vehicle crashes) to a person’s body.  Chest trauma involves the chest area wherein the thoracic cavity or ribs, lungs and heart are involved. The most frequent cause of severe blunt chest trauma is motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) wherein it accounts for 70-80% of such injuries.3



Like abdominal trauma, chest trauma can be categorized as blunt and penetrating.

  • Blunt chest trauma – Derangements in the flow of air, blood, or both in combination are the main mechanisms involved in blunt chest trauma. Massive infection or sepsis due to leakage of gastrointestinal contents, as in esophageal injury or perforations, also must be noted.

Blunt trauma is a common result involving chest wall injuries (eg, rib fractures) involving Missouri car accidents. The pain coupled with these injuries often makes breathing difficult. Direct lung injuries (i.e. lung or pulmonary contusions) are frequently associated with major chest trauma and may also affect breathing and therefore oxygenation to all other tissues of the body.

An emergency situation involving road injuries are tension pneumothorax in which pressure gradually builds up inside the chest as air leaks from the lungs into the other tissues. This can push the other contents of the chest towards one side. Distortion of the superior vena cava, a vein directly connected to the heart, by this shift in chest contents can result in decreased blood return to the heart leading to circulatory compromise,  shock, and suddenn death.2

  • Penetrating chest trauma – The effects of this type of trauma depend on the mechanism, location, and associated and if the person has underlying illnesses. The lungs and heart are definitely at risk when penetrated with any object. In addition to the two major organs in the body, the intraperitoneal viscera, the retroperitoneal space, and the neck can also be affected.4


Usual symptoms of both types of chest trauma are pain and difficulty breathing. Chest pain can be specifically described depending on what part of the chest is involved. Pain on a specific part of the chest can be misleading. Chest trauma is specifically diagnosed using a chest X-ray. In severe cases, a CT scan may be needed to provide more detailed images. A combination of CT scans and X-ray images taken from many different angles and directions can produce more detailed views of the underlying internal structures. Other tests like complete blood count, electrocardiogram, arterial blood gas, and other laboratory blood tests can also monitor the stability of the injured person.3TREATMENT

All types of chest trauma require bed rest, medical intervention and/or surgical repair to prevent lung collapse or cardiac arrest. Emergency Intubation can be done when the patient is unable to breathe due to the effects of trauma. Chest decompression must be performed as soon as possible when the person has tension pneumothorax. Blood transfusion is also required if the person has lost a lot of blood (hemorrhagic shock). Surgical repair is performed when the chest tube doesn’t solve the air leak or when a large part of the chest is severely injured or damaged.1





To prevent chest trauma following a Missouri car accident, drivers must obey all traffic regulations.5 Seatbelt usage while riding in a closed vehicles and avoidance of drinking alcohol when a person has to drive will also greatly help prevent chest trauma.2

If you or a loved one has suffered trauma to the chest as the result of a car accident, truck accident, or other motor vehicle accident, contact our Missouri and St Louis car accident lawyers today to discuss reimbursement for your injury. Call 314.409.7060 or toll-free at 855-402-7274 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


REFERENCES2 Fauci, et. al. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. The McGraw-Hill Companies. 17th edition. 2008. USA. Chapter 293. Acute Intestinal Obstruction. Chapter 13. Chest Discomfort

2 Mancini RC, et. al. Blunt Chest Trauma. Medscape. Department of Surgery, Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport.

3 MedLine Plus. Chest Injuries and Disorders. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. National Library of Medicine 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD. Last accessed November 2011.

4 Shahani R, et. al. Penetrating Chest Trauma. Medscape. Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Health Quest Medical Practice and Vassar Brothers Medical Center. Last accessed November 2011.

5 World Health Organization. Road traffic injuries publications and resources. Geneva. 2004. Last accessed November 2011.


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