How to manage a sucking chest wound

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A sucking chest wound is basically a hole in the chest that creates a new pathway for air to travel into the chest cavity. Once the chest cavity is expanded to inhale, the air not only goes into the mouth and nose as usual, but also into the hole.

When it comes to a sucking chest wound, it is considered dangerous since it can lead to pneumothorax or collapsed lungs. Managing a sucking chest wound typically involves preventing the air from going in while allowing extra air to go out. It can be hard to recognize when a penetrating wound to the chest is extracting air or not. Remember that they do not always produce noise. With this in mind, assume any penetrating wound in the chest as a sucking chest wound.

Treatment for a sucking chest wound

Sucking chest wound
Seal or cover a sucking chest wound. Place anything made out of plastic if possible sterile or at least clean on the hole and secure in place.
  • Always stay safe and when helping out, observe the universal precautions and utilize protective equipment if on hand.
  • Call for emergency assistance. If the operator provides instructions, follow them carefully. If emergency assistance is not available, you have to bring the individual to the nearest emergency department as soon as possible.
  • Seal or cover a sucking chest wound. Place anything made out of plastic if possible sterile or at least clean on the hole and secure in place. One tip is to utilize the wrapping that sterile dressings come in. Simply remove the packaging and tape the plastic area on the sucking chest wound.
  • Monitor for indications of tension pneumothorax. This is a collapsed lung that leaked out a lot of air between the chest wall and the lung which leads to the buildup of pressure that pushes the lungs over to the other side of the body. In case pressure is significant, the individual will end up with a dangerously low blood pressure or shock and death is likely to occur.

Indications of tension pneumothorax

  • Unequal chest where one side appear larger than the other
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Absence of lung sounds on one side
  • Bluish lips, fingers or neck
  • Bulging veins on the neck

If tension pneumothorax is suspected to be building up, you have to remove the seal to allow the air to escape.

Important tips

Taping the seal on 3 sides is believed to allow the air to escape while blocking air from being sucked in. Remember that it is vital to monitor for indications of pneumothorax and remove the seal if needed. There are seals that are specially made for a sucking chest wound but careful observation is still vital.

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