What Is a Sucking Chest Wound and How’s It Treated

What Is a Sucking Chest Wound And How’s It Treated?

A chest wound is a painful condition caused by puncture or abrasion of the chest wall. There are two types of chest wounds: superficial and deep. A superficial wound occurs when something such as a bullet grazes against the skin; it may not cause much pain but will usually heal on its own within 24 hours. A deeper wound, however, causes severe bleeding which requires immediate attention.

The most common cause of chest wounds is gunshot wounds. Other causes include stab wounds, sharp objects (such as nails), and even car accidents. Sometimes the wound is so small that no blood comes out at all. These are called “suckers” because they don’t bleed at all and require no treatment until they become infected or rupture completely causing death due to massive internal hemorrhaging.

Chest wounds are classified into three categories based on their location: superficial, moderate, and deep. A superficial wound is one that does not involve the lungs or heart. For example, if someone accidentally shoots themselves with a pistol while cleaning it, the shot will likely go through their arm without going anywhere near their vital organs. However, a chest wound involving the lungs or heart would be considered a “deep” wound.

If the wound has caused an airway obstruction (such as swelling or blood clots) then opening the chest via a surgical incision may be necessary to alleviate the blockage. This process is called a thoracotomy. A sucking chest wound, on the other hand, requires only an incision to drain excess air and fluid from the chest.

What should I do to provide immediate first aid?

If you do not have the necessary skills to perform a thoracotomy or the injured party is far away, you can still help by providing emotional support and making sure the victim stays calm. More importantly, check for signs of shock. If possible, elevate the affected area above the heart. If the wound is on an arm or leg, raise it above the head. If it is on the torso, raise it as high as possible. Lastly, apply direct pressure to the wound with your hands for three minutes. If bleeding persists, continue to raise the wound above the heart and reapply pressure.

What should I not do?

Do not try to remove an impaled object such as a knife, spike, or bullet. These are too dangerous to be pulled out and only act as a plug keeping the internal bleeding down. Keeping the wound elevated will stop most of the bleeding while keeping the plug in place.

How can I get help?

If possible, try to keep the victim calm and still before moving them. If they are able, try to have them make their way to safety while you provide covering fire. Also, it never hurts to have someone else watch your back. If all else fails and you are unable to move the victim or yourself, signal for help by creating a lot of noise or using a flare.

Where can I go for help?

If you can get the victim to a hospital, he or she may receive life-saving treatment. In addition to having the necessary medical staff and equipment, most hospitals also have an advanced trauma team that can provide care beyond what you may be able to give. Even if you are not within a hospital, activating the EMS system will dispatch a team equipped to handle these types of injuries.

Sources & references used in this article:

Noninvasive apparatus for treating a sucking chest wound by RM Clemens, KA Zseltvay – US Patent 4,717,382, 1988 – Google Patents

Noninvasive seal for a sucking chest wound by G Versaggi, AS Germain – US Patent 4,465,062, 1984 – Google Patents

Penetrating chest injuries in children by SB Bellinger – The Annals of thoracic surgery, 1972 – Elsevier

Medical dressing for treating open chest injuries by RE Asherman Jr – US Patent 5,478,333, 1995 – Google Patents

Chest injuries in the trauma patient. by SG Hammond – The Nursing Clinics of North America, 1990 – europepmc.org

Vented versus unvented chest seals for treatment of pneumothorax and prevention of tension pneumothorax in a swine model by BS Kheirabadi, IB Terrazas, A Koller… – Journal of Trauma …, 2013 – cdn.journals.lww.com