Blunt Chest Trauma

What is Blunt Chest Trauma

Blunt chest trauma is an injury that is caused by a hard, direct hit (blow) to the chest. The blow can be strong enough to injure multiple body parts. Blunt chest trauma often results in bruised or broken (fractured) ribs.

In many cases, the soft tissue in the chest wall is also injured, and this causes pain and bruising. Internal organs, such as the heart and lungs, can become injured as well.

Blunt chest trauma can lead to serious medical problems. This injury requires immediate medical care.

What are the causes?

Causes of blunt chest trauma include:

  • Motor vehicle collisions.
  • Falls.
  • Physical violence.
  • Sports injuries.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Chest pain. The pain may be worse when you move or breathe deeply.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Bruising.
  • Tenderness.
  • Swelling.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed with a medical history and physical exam. You may also have imaging tests, including:

  • X-rays.
  • Ultrasounds.
  • CT scans.
  • MRI.

How is this treated?

Treatment for this condition varies depending on the type of injury you have and its severity. You may need to stay in the hospital until you recover. Treatment may include:

  • Pain medicine. You may be given pain medicine through an IV tube at first. You may also be given over-the-counter and
  • Prescription pain relievers.
  • Tubes or other devices to help you breathe.
  • Surgery to repair broken ribs and fix the surrounding damaged tissue and organs.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • If directed, apply ice to the injured area:
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times per day.
  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your pain gets worse after treatment.
  • You have nausea or you vomit.
  • You have pain in your abdomen.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel dizzy or weak.

Get help right away if:

  • You have shortness of breath.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You faint.
  • You have severe chest pain. This may come with other symptoms, such as:
    • Dizziness.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Pain in your neck, jaw, or back, or in one arm or both arms.
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