Proper management of flail chest

A flail chest refers to a threatening breach in the overall integrity of the ribcage involving more than one neighboring broken rib. Instead of rigidity supporting the normal shape of the chest, a flail chest develops in a segment of the chest wall which flails back and forth in the opposite direction of the rest of the chest wall. Remember that this is considered as a life-threatening injury that entails immediate medical treatment. If this injury is not treated right away, flail chest will surely progress to a collapsed lung or lead to the accumulation of blood around the heart. With this in mind, you have to act quickly in delivering first aid care. In case treatment for flail chest is not given right away, it can lead to the development of complications.

Always stay safe

If a family member or colleague at work is the victim, you have to strictly observe the universal precautions and use personal protective gear and equipment if on hand. Make sure that whatever caused the injury to the individual is no longer a potential threat that can put your safety at risk.

Call for emergency assistant

Flail chest

Regardless how the flail chest is managed, expect it to hurt in a way that is worse that any pain experienced by the individual before.

Once an individual is suspected with a flail chest, you have to call for immediate emergency care. If the operator provides instructions on what to do, carefully follow the instructions. In case emergency assistance is not available, you have to bring the individual to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible.

Stabilize the flail chest

You can utilize a pillow or cushion to apply pressure over the flail section. By securing the flail section in place, it prevents it from moving towards the opposite direction as the surrounding muscles and bone. In case it does not move, it will not cause further damage to the lungs, heart and surrounding tissues.

Important tips to bear in mind

In case a pillow or cushion is not available, you can utilize other materials to help stabilize the flail chest. You can easily roll up a blanket or jacket. If there are no materials available, at least have the individual lie on the affected side of the chest to prevent further movement.

Regardless how the flail chest is managed, expect it to hurt in a way that is worse that any pain experienced by the individual before. Over-the-counter pain medications are not going to do any good for this level of pain while stronger medications should not be given until medical care is available to provide the full range of emergency treatment. Do not take or provide the individual with prescription medications of another individual.

Always ensure that the individual with flail chest receives emergency medical care. If unable to provide proper care for flail chest, it can progress to pneumonia as well as other life-threatening conditions.


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