Chest Injuries

Chest injuries are injuries to the chest wall (the bones, skin, fat, and muscles protecting your lungs, including your ribs and sternum) or any of the organs inside the chest.

Chest injuries include:

  • bruising or abrasions (cuts and grazes) to the chest area
  • broken bones (for example, a rib fracture)
  • damage to the lungs or heart

Chest injuries can be minor, such as bruising, or serious problems that need urgent medical attention.

One of the most common chest injuries is fractured ribs. These are caused by a strong blunt force, such as a fall from a height or a motor vehicle crash. In older people who have osteoporosis, only a slight force, such as a minor fall, can fracture a rib.

A fractured rib is rarely serious. However, the force that caused the fracture can occasionally cause other problems, such as a bruised or collapsed lung.

Recognition of Chest Injuries

Chest injuries that interfere with breathing or circulation can be serious or life threatening.

If the injury is severe, there may be internal bleeding. This might be obvious (e.g., coughing up blood), or not so obvious (e.g., pale and clammy skin, nausea, extreme thirst).

Go to an emergency department or call an ambulance on triple zero (000) if you:

  • have difficulty breathing.
  • feel drowsy or confused.
  • cough up any yellow/green or red-stained sputum.
  • have skin that is clammy and pale.
  • have chest pain.
  • pass any blood in your urine and or stools.
  • have extreme thirst.

Management

  • If any part of your chest is bleeding, cover the area with a clean cloth or bandage, and apply consistent pressure to stop the bleeding.
  • For a penetrating wound, if an object remains in the chest, it should not be removed.
  • Position the injured person with the injured side down or in a position of most comfort.
  • CPR may be necessary.