You might not think of bruises as particularly serious injuries, but make no mistake about it, these injuries, especially in the chest area, can be very serious. This is especially true of contusions, the term used to refer to more serious bruises. If left untreated, contusions can be fatal. Chest contusions often arise in car accidents.
What Is a Chest Contusion?
When you suffer a blow to the chest area, you can suffer a chest contusion. While in some cases you may see bruising on the skin, there are often no outward signs of a chest contusion, and some victims may not be aware they have a chest contusion until they start to experience other, more serious symptoms.
What Causes Chest Contusions in a Car Accident?
In a vehicle collision, the motions your body goes through can be unpredictable and hard to track in the moment. A chest contusion arises when your chest collides with a part of the vehicle. For example, a rear-end collision may thrust your body forward, resulting in an impact on your chest from your seat belt or steering wheel. Car accident victims whose airbags deploy may be struck in the chest by their airbags. Airbags deploy quickly and can exert a lot of force, and are therefore likely to cause contusions. Because of this, the chances of suffering a chest contusion if airbags deploy are high, regardless of how severe the accident may be otherwise.
How Are Chest Contusions Diagnosed?
The most important thing to do after a car accident is to see a medical professional and explain to them with as much detail as you can recall about what you experienced during the accident. This includes letting them know of any pressure or impact to your chest during the accident. Let them know if you struck your chest on the steering wheel, whether the airbag deployed, and whether you felt pressure from your seat belt tightening around your chest.
Some tests the doctor may order include:
- CT Scans
- Standard X-Rays
Make sure the doctor is aware of all symptoms you may be experiencing, including shortness of breath, tenderness when taking a deep breath, or any pain in your ribs or the muscles in your chest. In the days following an accident, you should report any breathing problems or other discomfort to your doctor so you can make sure you are not suffering any adverse effects of a chest contusion.
What Problems are Associated With Chest Contusions?
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident in which a victim suffered a chest contusion, the victim may be asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms of the contusion, especially since the adrenaline in your body helps mask any pain.
While victims may see bruises on their chests, they could suffer more serious injuries, including:
- Pulmonary contusion – Bruising on the chest could indicate there is swelling and internal bleeding in the lungs. It often takes 24 or more hours for these signs to occur. Victims may suffer from pneumonia as a result of such injuries.
- Pneumothorax – Pneumothorax refers to a collapsed lung. Latent symptoms of pneumothorax include shortness of breath and chest pain, and potentially dangerously low blood oxygen levels.
- Bruised sternum – Bruises and fractures to the sternum can result in pain, discomfort, and stiffness in the days following an accident.
- Hemothorax – A victim of a chest contusion may suffer from a hemothorax, or blood pooling in between their chest wall and lung. This may be a result of tears in the vein, artery, or heart.
- Myocardial contusion – This condition occurs when the victim suffers a blow impacting their heart. This type of injury often occurs when a victim is struck by their airbag deploying. When the injury is severe, a victim may suffer a heart attack. Left undiagnosed, victims may suffer pain and tenderness as well as internal bleeding. In the long term, victims may also develop blood clots, which can result in heart problems several weeks or months after the accident.
- Tracheobronchial injury – This type of injury involves impact to the trachea and bronchi airway structure. Although these injuries are less common, when they do occur, they pose a serious and even fatal danger to the victim.
These types of injuries clearly demonstrate why a car accident victim should seek medical attention immediately following an accident. Victims should inform their medical professional about any pressure they experienced to their chest walls, so that they can ensure they do not suffer further problems because of a missed diagnosis. If treatment of a chest contusion is delayed, it may result in long-term health issues.
Chest contusions can be just as severe and have just as serious impacts on victims as the myriad of other injuries that may result from a car accident. They may cause victims to miss time from work for treatment or if the level of pain makes returning to work too great a burden to handle. Breathing difficulties may also mean a victim must stay at home while recovering.
Bruising: Contusions Are Far More Serious
Chest contusions, even ones following car accidents may seem harmless enough, particularly because many people equate them to simple bruising. However, the consequences of these injuries are potentially serious and can have long-term impacts on a victim’s overall health. Victims should follow all instructions of their medical care provider about how to take care of themselves, and should limit activities until they have had enough time to fully recover. That, in turn, can help a car accident lawyer pursue additional compensation for you.