FLAIL Chest – Causes, Treatment and Complications


Flail chest is a serious condition marked by a segment of the chest wall moving independently due to multiple rib fractures. This article delves into the causes, mechanisms, symptoms, treatment options, and potential complications associated with flail chest.

Flail chest

Causes of Flail Chest:

Flail chest typically results from blunt chest trauma, often due to accidents like car crashes or falls. The force exerted on the chest causes multiple adjacent rib fractures, leading to a detached segment of the chest wall.

Mechanism of Flail Chest:

The mechanism involves a paradoxical movement of the flail segment during breathing. Instead of expanding with inhalation and contracting with exhalation, the affected chest wall segment moves inversely, impairing normal respiratory mechanics.


Patients with flail chest commonly experience severe pain, difficulty breathing, and paradoxical chest wall movement. Breathing may become rapid and shallow, and patients often avoid deep inhalation due to the associated pain.


Immediate medical attention is crucial for flail chest. Stabilizing the chest and improving breathing are priorities. Non-invasive positive pressure ventilation or, in severe cases, mechanical ventilation may be required. Pain management and addressing associated injuries are integral aspects of treatment.


Complications can arise if flail chest is not promptly and adequately treated. These may include pneumonia due to impaired lung function, respiratory failure, and, in extreme cases, life-threatening conditions. Early intervention is key to mitigating these complications.


Flail chest poses a significant threat to respiratory function and overall well-being, necessitating swift and appropriate medical attention. Understanding the causes, mechanisms, symptoms, and treatment options for flail chest is imperative for healthcare professionals and the public alike. As research progresses, ongoing efforts to enhance diagnostic methods and treatment modalities will continue to improve outcomes for individuals affected by this challenging condition.

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