Chest Trauma: Types, Guidelines, and Treatments


The term chest trauma refers to different injuries that can occur to the chest. The trauma can be blunt (for instance, a blow to the chest) or penetrative (for instance, a wound or gunshot). No matter what type of chest trauma one experiences, it is considered very serious as severe untreated trauma can result in problems in the lung or heart. This article will let you know about all the different types of injuries that can occur, along with their corresponding chest trauma guidelines so that you can practice effective first aid.

Chest Trauma

What are the Common Types of Chest Trauma?

The following types of chest traumas are ones that doctors treat mostly commonly:

Broken Ribs:

Blunt chest trauma results in damage to the ribs. Broken ribs are extremely painful and also very dangerous as some chest trauma complications include splinters of broken ribs, puncturing lungs and the heart. This is why immediate care is essential. One of the most important chest trauma guidelines for broken ribs is to not move as the slightest movements can lead to internal injuries.

Guideline: Keeping the patient flat on his/her back while waiting for an ambulance is the best thing you can do in such situations.


Pneumothorax occurs when air gets into the space between the lung and the chest wall. This can cause difficulties in breathing. Some of the prominent chest trauma symptoms related to this condition include:

  • Pain in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing


Some patients may also experience a high heart rate. Chest trauma causes for pneumothorax generally include:

  • Injuries
  • Lung disease
  • Lung tissue rupture (specifically air-filled sac)
  • Mechanical ventilation

Guideline: A patient suffering from should be taken to a healthcare facility immediately. This condition requires emergency medical intervention.

Open Wounds:

This is the most common type of chest trauma after a car accident. Open wounds can be caused due to injuries and often are easier to diagnose as one can see them. However, it can often be hard to gauge the depth of the wound, primarily because sometimes, superficial cuts can also cause a lot of bleeding and scare patients.

Guideline: The immediate first-aid for such situations include applying pressure gently to stop the bleeding immediately and dressing the wound, if possible.

Chest trauma treatments vary from wound to wound. In some cases, the patient must undergo surgery while in other cases, stitches and dressing suffice.

General Chest Trauma Guidelines to Keep in Mind:

Knowing a little bit of first aid can help you save lives. Often, the time spent waiting for an ambulance to arrive can be critical and if you perform first aid, you can prevent the patient’s condition from deteriorating. The following are a few chest trauma guidelines that you should keep in mind, just in case:

  • If the patient is not breathing and is unresponsive, you must start CPR. You can do so by placing the heel of your dominant hand on the centre of the patient’s chest, and the second hand on top of the first with the fingers laced. You must then press down while ensuring that you can press a minimum of 2 inches into the chest. 100 beats per minute is the right speed to achieve while doing chest compressions. Do not give mouth-to-mouth! It is not required.
  • Cover any open wounds if you see them. You can use anything to cover them such as a cloth, plastic sheet, or anything clean that you can get your hands during an emergency.
  • Apply gentle pressure on wounds in order to stop the bleeding.
  • Monitor the patient’s breathing closely and give accurate reports to any healthcare professional who may arrive on the scene.

General Chest Trauma Symptoms:

If a patient has internal injuries, it can be challenging for people at the scene of an accident to help as they don’t know what to look for. The following chest trauma symptoms are universal ones that indicate that there is a chest injury:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Failure of the chest to expand properly
  • Coughing up blood
  • Crunching sounds from the ribs
  • One side of the chest looking higher than the other
  • One side of the chest not moving at all
  • Do not move the patient as you do not know if there are other internal injuries

What Factors Should Be Kept in Mind During Chest Trauma Treatments?

Chest trauma treatment often begins in the field – that is, the place where the injured person is, as opposed to the hospital. This is because chest trauma management must begin as soon as possible to prevent loss of life and any complications from arising. Here are a few essential factors to keep in mind when you’re with a patient who suffered a chest trauma:

  • If you see an object penetrating the chest, do not move it. Only a trained healthcare professional should be allowed to move it.
  • Airtight dressing is preferred when looking for things to cover the chest hole with. Tin foil and plastic sheets are good options for the same. However, if you see signs of pneumothorax after covering the wound, you should uncover it to allow the air to escape from the chest.
  • The neck and back must be immobilized – which means that you should restrict the patient from moving as it may cause further harm.
  • The person should be given oxygen immediately.


Chest trauma guidelines are meant to empower people to take care of accident victims or people who have undergone a chest injury. However, simply knowing these guidelines and acting on them does not mean that you can provide sufficient treatment to the patient. Your first move, no matter what, should be to call an ambulance so that a doctor can take care of the patient. Then, while waiting, you can watch for signs of trauma and try and help accordingly.

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