Chest Injuries:


Any injury to the chest (damage to the area between the neck and the abdomen including the ribs) can cause impairment to breathing leading to hypoxia. Hypoxia is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole (generalised hypoxia), or a region off the body (tissue hypoxia) is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. An undiagnosed chest injury can cause one or both lungs to collapse causing pressure on the heart; and ultimately cardiac arrest.


The two types of chest injury are:

1. Closed:

The skin has not broken and air does not enter the chest cavity through the chest wall.


2. Open:

The chest wall has been penetrated by a foreign object.


Causes of Chest Injury:

  • Blunt Trauma.
  • Penetrating objects.
  • Compression (crush injury).


Examples of Chest Injury:

  • Fractures ribs.
  • Fail segment.
  • Pneumothorax (air entering the pleural cavity).
  • Open Pneumothorax (open sucking wound).
  • Haemothorax (blood entering the pleura cavity).
  • Tension Pneumothorax (air trapped in the pleura cavity under positive pressure displacing other organs).


NB: THE PLEURA CAVITY is the space between two pleura (serous membrane) visceral and parietal, which cover the lungs.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • Uneven-unusual chest movement.
  • Panic and anxiety.
  • Pain at site of injury.
  • Blueness around the lips.
  • Pain.
  • Rapid heart beat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Poor oxygenation (SATS below 94%).


NB: SATS or Oxygen Saturation is a measure of how much oxygen the blood is carrying as a percentage of the maximum it could carry. A healthy individual would have SATS between 94 -100%.



  • Place casualty in the most comfortable position, if possible inclined to the injured side.
  • If open sucking chest wound, prevent air entry ASAP. If possible use a credit card, cling film or any air-tight seal to cover the wound. This must be taped on three sides to prevent air getting in, but will allow air to come out.
  • Dial 999.
  • If First Aiders are pulse Oximetery & Oxygen Therapy trained, then deliver oxygen therapy appropriately.



We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in our blog. One of our more popular articles is about quality or quantity when it comes to first aid training.


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