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Severe Chest Trauma resulting in Flail chest and paradoxical respiratory movement.
Flail chest is a life-threatening medical condition that occurs when a segment of the rib cage breaks under extreme stress and becomes detached from the rest of the chest wall.
It occurs when multiple adjacent ribs are broken in multiple places, separating a segment, so a part of the chest wall moves independently.
The number of ribs that must be broken varies by differing definitions: some sources say at least two adjacent ribs are broken in at least two places, some require three or more ribs in two or more places.
The flail segment moves in the opposite direction to the rest of the chest wall: because of the ambient pressure in comparison to the pressure inside the lungs, it goes in while the rest of the chest is moving out, and vice versa. This so-called "paradoxical breathing" is painful and increases the work involved in breathing.
Flail chest is usually accompanied by a pulmonary contusion, a bruise of the lung tissue that can interfere with blood oxygenation.
Often, it is the contusion, not the flail segment, that is the main cause of respiratory problems in people with both injuries.