Treatment of sucking chest wound

Treatment Steps

If you’re with someone who may have a sucking chest wound, swift action is critical.

Call 911

Call 911 immediately. If the operator gives you instructions, follow them and ignore the rest of this page.

If 911 isn’t available, get the person to emergency medical help as soon as possible. If you’re waiting for help to arrive, you may be able to take care of them at the scene.

Seal the Sucking Chest Wound

Put something plastic (preferably sterile or at least clean) over the hole and tape it down on three sides.

You can use a first aid device called a chest seal or improvise with the packaging sterile dressings come in. Peel open the packaging and tape the entire plastic portion over the wound.

Watch for Collapsed Lung

Be alert for signs of a collapsed lung also called a tension pneumothorax.

In a tension pneumothorax, the collapsed lung leaks lots of air between the chest wall and the lung, building up pressure. If the pressure builds too much, the victim will develop a dangerously low blood pressure (shock) and likely die.

Signs of a tension pneumothorax include:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Unequal chest (one side looks bigger than the other)
  • Veins on the neck bulging (jugular vein distension)
  • Blue lips, neck or fingers (cyanosis)
  • No lung sounds on one side

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