People experiencing blunt thoracic trauma may sustain multiple rib fractures, flail chest, cardiac or pulmonary contusions, injury to the great vessels, sternal fractures, clavicular fractures, neck injuries, and lacerations of the liver and/or spleen. Long-term sequelae from blunt chest trauma include chest wall deformities, persistent dyspnea, and cardiac, neurologic, or esophageal complications. Chronic pain, depression, and loss of functional status are also frequent components of recovery from trauma.
Survivors of blunt chest trauma can expect recovery from their injuries to be a gradual process, which may continue for 6 months to many years. Survivors need to be informed that they may never regain complete preinjury status. Pain management measures that reduce pain to a level that allows the patient to function, as well as a thorough investigation for sources of unresolved symptoms are indicated. Physical therapy, rehabilitation services, and psychologic support, such as counseling and treatment of depression, improve the individual's potential to return to a highly functioning lifestyle with minimal residual sequelae.