Chest retractions are a sucking in of the skin in between or around
the bones of the chest when inhaling. Retractions may occur in several areas of
the chest and are a sign of increased use of the chest muscles for breathing.
This usually is a sign of difficulty breathing.
As breathing becomes more difficult, areas of the chest where
retractions can be seen increase.
Mild difficulty breathing may cause retraction in
the belly, just below the rib cage (subcostal) and at the bottom of the
Moderate difficulty breathing may cause
retraction in the same areas of the chest and belly as mild difficulty
breathing, but now retraction between the ribs (intercostal retractions) is
Severe difficulty breathing may cause retraction in
the same of the areas of the chest and belly as mild and moderate difficulty
breathing, but now retraction in the neck, just above the collarbone
(supraclavicular) or just above the breastbone (suprasternal), is also
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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