Open chest injury
Victor, a 14 year old cat, was having a nice sleep on the front verandah when 2 stray dogs came along and tried to kill him. He presented to us in severe shock and had difficulty breathing. There was a "sucking/whistling" sound coming from a skin laceration on his left chest. There did not appear to be any other major injuries. His colour was surprisingly good.
We suspected one of the dogs teeth had broken some ribs and punctured the chest wall. Each breath he took would result in air from outside his chest being sucked in then pushed out as the lungs inside his chest collapsed and expanded.
Victor was placed on a drip and given I.V. antibiotics, pain killers and cortisone IV for shock. He was placed on an oxygen face mask and then anaesthetised. We opened up the skin wound on his chest to find a large hole looking straight in at his lungs and beating heart. One of the nurses did his breathing for him by filling and gently squeezing his breathing bag on the anesthetic machine in time with his own breathing.
We placed several large sutures around the ribs in front of and behind the opening. Once they had all been placed, we tied them off one at a time. We placed some sterile saline over the closure to check for leaks which would show up as bubbles. The overlying muscles had been torn. We stitched them back together to make a second layer covering the hole.
We flushed the inside of the chest and wounds with sterile penicillin. A chest drain was placed into the chest in case there was leakage of air/blood into the chest over the next few days. We emptied the chest cavity using the drain 3 times a day.
Victor made a great recovery and was eating the next day. His wounds healed after 10 days and the stitches were removed.
After 72 hours, we were not getting much fluid or air from the chest drain so it was removed. Other drains that had been placed under the skin where the torn muscles were were removed on day 4.