Flail chest refers to a freely movable segment of the thoracic wall secondary to fractures of consecutive ribs. In most cases of flail chest, each affected rib is fractured at multiple sites; however, a flail segment can be present in animals with single fractures on affected ribs or with dislocations or flexible costal cartilage (Figure 1). This may result in respiratory compromise caused by pain, trauma to the lungs, or decreased ventilation. Flail chest is a potential consequence of a traumatic event involving extreme external forces (eg, dog attack, automotive trauma).1
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