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What Is Blunt Chest Trauma?

Many cases of blunt chest trauma can cause a collapse of one or both lungs.
The rib cage, which helps protect the organs in the chest from trauma.
A diagram of the aorta. Blunt chest trauma can cause damage to the aorta.
Blunt chest trauma may lead to severe chest pain.
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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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Blunt chest trauma is an injury incurred when a forceful blow or significant impact that has been sustained directly to the chest area. In many cases, this type of trauma might occur from the force of a blunt object being dropped directly onto the chest or by the individual being crushed against an object or surface. Most commonly, types of trauma involving blunt force are often seen in automobile accidents or some type of physical violence. Child abuse is another major cause of blunt force trauma.

Blunt chest trauma can affect various structures within the chest wall and chest cavities. The trauma may directly involve the ribcage, the sternum or the lungs. Contusions, fractures and internal bleeding are commonly seen in association with blunt trauma. A trauma physician or trauma nurse typically treats such injuries.

Many cases of blunt chest trauma can cause a collapse of one or both lungs. This can happen if a fractured rib pierces the lung tissue. Compromised breathing and coughing up blood can be serious signs of a significant trauma injury. When a lung has collapsed, the condition known as pneumothorax can become life-threatening if not cared for quickly.

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Gunshot wounds and stabbings account for a high percentage of blunt trauma to the chest. This type of injury can cause bleeding into the chest. Hemorrhaging can be life-threatening, which is why bleeding needs to be stopped as quickly as possible. In many cases, surgery will be performed to repair the damage or possibly remove fragments of bullets or other material lodged in the chest.

Many times after blunt chest trauma has occurred, heart problems can develop. This can occur especially if broken ribs have been involved. The heart muscle itself may become weakened, damaged or swollen. Issues within the valve may also occur as a result. Aortic dissection can result, which can lead to massive bleeding and death if not repaired through surgery. Aortic dissection is when a significant rip occurs to the major artery of the heart known as the aorta.

In certain suspicious cases of blunt chest trauma that have resulted in death, an autopsy will typically be performed. This procedure may be conducted by a forensic pathologist. This is a specialized physician who is trained to determine the cause of death under certain circumstances that are generally violent by nature. The forensic pathologist can also make the determination of whether the death was an accident or if the patient took her own life. The forensic pathologist can also uncover evidence that conclusively points to homicide.

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