(See also Introduction to Chest Injuries Introduction to Chest Injuries Chest injuries most often affect the ribs, upper part of the abdomen, lungs, blood vessels, heart, muscles, soft tissues, and breastbone. Sometimes the esophagus, collarbone, or shoulder blade... read more .)
A severe blow to the chest (as from a motor vehicle crash or fall) can bruise the lung. The bruised lung does not absorb oxygen properly. A large bruise can cause dangerously low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream. A severe pulmonary contusion is potentially life threatening.
People may also have rib fractures Rib Fractures A rib fracture is a crack or break in the bones enclosing the chest. Rib fractures cause severe pain, particularly when a person breathes deeply. A chest x-ray is usually taken. People are given... read more , a collapsed lung (pneumothorax Pneumothorax A pneumothorax is the presence of air between the two layers of pleura (thin, transparent, two-layered membrane that covers the lungs and also lines the inside of the chest wall), resulting... read more ), and other chest injuries. Later on, people may develop pneumonia Overview of Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection of the small air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) and the tissues around them. Pneumonia is one of the most common causes of death worldwide. Often, pneumonia is the final... read more or acute respiratory distress syndrome Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) Acute respiratory distress syndrome is a type of respiratory (lung) failure resulting from many different disorders that cause fluid to accumulate in the lungs and oxygen levels in the blood... read more .
Doctors suspect a pulmonary contusion when people become short of breath after a chest injury, especially if shortness of breath develops gradually.
A chest x-ray X-Rays of the Chest Anyone thought to have a heart disorder has chest x-rays taken from the front and the side. Typically, the person is standing upright, but chest x-rays can be done with people lying in bed if... read more is taken. However, because a contusion may develop gradually, doctors may take more than one x-ray over a period of many hours to detect a contusion.
Doctors also measure the amount of oxygen in the blood by attaching a device to a finger or toe (pulse oximeter). This information can help doctors determine how well the lungs are functioning.
People are usually given pain relievers (analgesics) to lessen pain and thus help them breathe more easily.
People may need oxygen therapy or sometimes mechanical ventilation Mechanical Ventilation Mechanical ventilation is use of a machine to aid the movement of air into and out of the lungs. Some people with respiratory failure need a mechanical ventilator (a machine that helps air get... read more to help with breathing while the injury heals.