Chest wall trauma

J Thorac Imaging. 2000 Apr;15(2):112-9. doi: 10.1097/00005382-200004000-00006.


Sufficient trauma to the chest can result in injury to the bony thorax and soft tissues of the chest wall, increasing patient morbidity and mortality. Fractured ribs can lacerate the pleura, lung, or abdominal organs. Fractures to upper ribs, clavicle, and upper sternum can signal brachial plexus or vascular injury. Paradoxical movement of a flail chest can impair respiratory mechanics, promote atelectasis, and impair pulmonary drainage. Most patients with thoracic spine fracture-dislocations have complete neurologic deficits. Scapular fractures, associated with other injuries in almost all patients, are frequently overlooked on supine chest radiographs. Sternal fractures, associated with clinically silent myocardial contusion, are best visualized on chest computed tomography (CT). Severe trauma to the chest wall can be associated with large chest wall hematomas or collections of air within the chest wall that can communicate with the intrathoracic space. CT scanning can easily distinguish chest wall from parenchymal or mediastinal injury, whereas this differentiation my not be possible with chest radiography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Radiography, Thoracic*
  • Ribs / diagnostic imaging
  • Ribs / injuries*
  • Scapula / diagnostic imaging
  • Scapula / injuries
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Sternum / diagnostic imaging
  • Sternum / injuries
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / injuries
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*