Blunt Chest Trauma

Blunt chest trauma is an injury caused by a blow to the chest. These chest injuries can be very painful. Blunt chest trauma often results in bruised or broken (fractured) ribs. Most cases of bruised and fractured ribs from blunt chest traumas get better after 1 to 3 weeks of rest and pain medicine. Often, the soft tissue in the chest wall is also injured, causing pain and bruising. Internal organs, such as the heart and lungs, may also be injured. Blunt chest trauma can lead to serious medical problems. This injury requires immediate medical care.

CAUSES

  • Motor vehicle collisions.

  • Falls.

  • Physical violence.

  • Sports injuries.

SYMPTOMS

  • Chest pain. The pain may be worse when you move or breathe deeply.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Lightheadedness.

  • Bruising.

  • Tenderness.

  • Swelling.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will do a physical exam. X-rays may be taken to look for fractures. However, minor rib fractures may not show up on X-rays until a few days after the injury. If a more serious injury is suspected, further imaging tests may be done. This may include ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the severity of your injury. Your caregiver may prescribe pain medicines and deep breathing exercises.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Limit your activities until you can move around without much pain.

  • Do not do any strenuous work until your injury is healed.

  • Put ice on the injured area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.

  • You may wear a rib belt as directed by your caregiver to reduce pain.

  • Practice deep breathing as directed by your caregiver to keep your lungs clear.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, fever, or discomfort as directed by your caregiver.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increasing pain or shortness of breath.

  • You cough up blood.

  • You have nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain.

  • You have a fever.

  • You feel dizzy, weak, or you faint.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.