The chest cavity houses the lungs, heart, major blood vessels, and many other body organs. The ribs and the muscles provide structure to these body parts and protect it from possible injuries. Although these anatomic structures are guaranteed strong and can withstand forceful impacts, some accidents involving the chest can potentially lead to a wide range of complications. It requires healthcare providers who are skilled in advanced first aid to be able to treat these complications.
- Cardiac tamponade is a condition where blunt or penetrating injury to the heart causes the blood to pool in the surrounding space of the chest cavity. The cavity eventually fills with blood which can compress the chambers of the heart to the point that they cannot adequately take in blood. Individuals suffering from this complication may appear weak, with distended neck veins, and fluctuating blood pressure readings. These patients gradually deteriorate as the amount of blood that circulates the body continues to diminish.
- Hemothorax refers to the lacerations within the thoracic cavity due to penetrating objects or fragmented/fractured ribs. Blood eventually floods into the lungs and eventually causing it to collapse. In most cases, the buildup of blood in one part of the lungs pushes the heart towards the uninjured lungs. Hemopneumothorax is almost the same except that additional air enters into the lung space. Both complications result in coughing up of frothy red blood or vomiting of fresh blood.
- Tension pneumothorax results when air gets into the lung space but is unable to get move out or becomes trapped inside. This is a possible complication after a punctured chest wound. As the person inhales, air also enters into the hole but is unable to get out. Air gradually builds up inside the closed chest cavity, rapidly impairing lung and heart function. This is considered a true medical emergency that requires prompt treatment by trained professionals. Tension pneumothorax may lead to symptoms that include increasing difficulty of breathing, bluish discoloration of skin, a weak pulse, and drop in blood pressure. Breath sounds may be abnormal, with unequal air entry.
- Traumatic asphyxia is a group of signs and symptoms that are caused by the sudden compression of the chest cavity that cause the heart to force blood out of the right chamber into the jugular vein. Patients display distended neck veins, bloodshot or bulging eyes, dark blue color of the head, shoulders and neck, and obvious chest deformity. Traumatic asphyxia requires prompt treatment. Supplemental oxygen should be initiated right away to keep patient alive. In some cases, the patient requires assisted respiration.
- Spontaneous pneumothorax occurs when a weakened portion of the lungs collapses and releases air within the chest cavity. The patient may have decreased breath sounds on the injured part. Although this condition is not that life-threatening, it can lead to pneumothorax thus requires emergency treatment right away.
Healthcare providers should be adequately trained to manage these emergency situations in order to respond properly and prevent fatal consequences. Organizations such as the workplace approved provide advanced first aid courses for healthcare providers.