- A severe traumatic injury of the rib cage
- integrity of the rib cage is compromised as multiple osseous fragments respond as an independent segment from the rest of the chest wall during inspiration and expiration.
- The rib fragments are drawn inwards with each inspiration and pushed outwards with each expiration.
- This compromises the ability to adequately fill the lungs with air and results in decrease perfusion.
- Flail chest can be life threatening if sufficient damage to underlying lung tissue has occurred as a result of the traumatic injury to prevent adequate gas exchange.
- Often it is the contusion sustained by lung tissue and not the osseous flail segment of the trauma that results in respiratory distress and death.