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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Bone trauma and fractures

Question: Flail chest

 Author - Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:57 am


I'm writing a novel in which one of my characters has just suffered a flail chest. It's set in the Middle Stone Age and he had a stag fall on him in its death throes

He's young (about 16) and fit and I would like him to live.

Assuming my healer only has herbal medicines and analgesics such as comfrey for bone knitting etc, what treatment would my healer use to heal him? Also assuming no underlying punctured lung or heart problems.

Is it simply a case of having him lie still till it's healed or is there anything else he can do?

Thank you for any advice.
 Dr. Tino Anthony Solomon - Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:21 pm

Hello there,

'Flail chest' is often treated conservatively, provided no complications arise as a direct or indirect result of injury. Conservative treatment essentially entails adequate pain control and oxygenation because normal breathing patterns may be disrupted. If the subject cannot adequately ventilate himself, then invasive ventilation may be required. This scenario is more likely in multiple rib fractures and fractures that involve injuries to underlying structures. The ribs are normally allowed to heal on their own and rarely is surgery required. A later complication that can occur after any trauma is an Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which is a condition that is diagnosed using technical and invasive investigations and requires advanced ventilation procedures in an intensive care setting to manage, all of which I doubt would have been available in the middle ages!

It would therefore be safe and plausible to write into your story a natural healing method as the mode of treatment.

Dr Tino Solomon
MB BS BSc(Hons)
Senior House Officer in Surgery

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