Thoracic injuries are common after a car accident. The damage could be caused by blunt force or penetration. Penetrating chest injuries can lacerate or injure lungs, heart or major blood vessels.

Symptoms of chest trauma can be roughly the same, regardless of whether the trauma was blunt force or penetrating. These include; difficulty breathing, hypotension from blood loss, failure of the lungs to expand properly, crunching sounds when palpating the rib cage, bruising of the chest wall, coughing up blood, and a puncture wound to the chest that sucks air.

Different chest injuries, classified by the area of association:

Skeletal injury (Ribs, Clavicles, Sternum)

Rib fractures are the most common. The problem with a bone fracture is not usually the fracture itself, but with the potential for internal injury that accompanies the fractures.

Pulmonary injury (Trachea, Bronchi, Lungs)

In addition to an intact chest wall, a functioning pulmonary system is required to ensure adequate ventilations. Standard pulmonary injuries include:

  • Pulmonary contusion
  • Simple open/closed pneumothorax
  • Tension pneumothorax
  • Hemothorax
  • Traumatic asphyxia.

Heart/Great Vessels (Myocardium, Aorta, Pulmonary vessels)

A pericardial tamponade is an accumulation of blood in the pericardium, resulting in compression of the heart, impaired cardiac filling and reduces cardiac output. Acute pericardial tamponade is most common in patients with penetrating trauma to the chest and upper abdomen and is rarely associated with blunt force trauma.