Definition of Flail Chest

Think free-floating segment of ribs or sternum.  This is common and small flails may be missed clinically.

  • Beware underlying pulmonary contusions which are near inevitable, and may cause significant morbidity and mortality in any age group
  • Considerable force is required to create a flail chest in young people – look carefully for other injuries, both intra and extra-thoracic
  • The multiple rib fractures are a potential source of significant haemorrhage