Chest Injury Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on September 09, 2021

Call 911

  • Emergency medical assistance is critical for any serious wound to the chest.
  • Even if there are no external wounds, there may be internal damage.

1. Begin CPR, if Necessary

If the person is unresponsive, has stopped breathing, or is gasping for air:

2. Cover an Open Wound

  • Use a cloth, pad, piece of clothing, plastic, aluminum, or whatever is at hand.
  • If possible, cover two inches beyond the edge of the wound.
  • If blood bubbles up from the wound or you hear air passing through the chest cavity, tape cover down on three sides to prevent air from building up in the chest.
  • Do not remove any objects that have penetrated the chest.

3. Stop Bleeding, if Necessary

  • Apply pressure over dressing to control bleeding.
  • If blood soaks through the dressing, apply additional dressing on top of old one.

4. Position Person to Make Breathing Easier

  • If possible, place the person on the injured side or sitting up.

5. Monitor Breathing

  • If breathing becomes weak, apply CPR as instructed above.

6. Follow Up

  • The medical team will assess the injury and stabilize the person.
  • A blood transfusion may be necessary if there is significant blood loss.
  • A temporary chest tube may be placed to remove air surrounding the lung, which could cause the lung to collapse. When a lung collapses, it is called pneumothorax.

  • Surgery is likely for a serious chest injury.

Show Sources


American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation: “What to Do in a Medical Emergency."

First Aid Manual, Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.

Thygerson, A. First Aid, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2006.

Chest Injury Information from eMedicineHealth.

American Heart Association: "Highlights of the 2015 American Heart Association Guidelines Update for CPR and ECC."

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