You should always see a car accident doctor within the first few days of a motor vehicle collision. This is especially important if you experience pain or symptoms in the chest. These could indicate damage to vital organs, a potentially life-threatening situation. An injury that is initially minor could worsen if it does not receive treatment right away. It is also important to see an auto injury doctor so that you can use medical records as evidence to support an insurance claim or lawsuit.
What Causes Chest Injuries in a Car Accident?
Two basic types of chest injuries are penetrating injuries and blunt force. A penetrating injury occurs when a foreign object tears through the skin and often into the tissues below. A penetrating injury is possible during a car accident, e.g., the car's windows could break, and the glass could embed itself in your skin.
However, a car accident is more likely to result in blunt force trauma, which occurs when the damage is something other than penetration by a sharp object. Seventy percent of all blunt force chest trauma results from motor vehicle accidents. It commonly occurs because of the steering wheel striking your chest in the accident.
Seat belts and airbags are safety devices meant to reduce the risk of death or debilitating injury in an auto collision. However, although they frequently save lives, they can also cause chest trauma when they deploy or lock during a crash. A car injury doctor can examine your wounds and determine whether the trauma is blunt or penetrating in nature.
What Types of Chest Injuries Can Occur in a Car Accident?
A blunt force trauma to the chest in a car accident can result in several potentially dangerous conditions.
1. Internal Bleeding
The force of impact can cause damage to the blood vessels inside the chest. This can lead to internal bleeding, a very dangerous condition that can take a while to recognize. You may experience fatigue, lightheadedness, or thirst due to internal bleeding of the chest. You may also feel unusually cold or notice your complexion is paler than normal.
2. Broken Ribs
Your ribs provide support and protection to your internal organs. However, blunt chest trauma may be sufficient to fracture them. Broken ribs are painful and can make breathing difficult. A flail chest is a particularly dangerous type of rib fracture. This occurs when the bone fragment breaks away completely and is only connected by the soft tissues surrounding it.
3. Organ Injury
Organ injuries can occur directly due to the force of the impact or indirectly due to damage from a broken rib. Injuries to the heart and lungs are the most serious. A broken rib or penetration by a foreign object can puncture the lung. This can allow air to escape into the chest cavity and cause a pneumothorax. The buildup of air in the chest cavity compresses the lung, making it more difficult to breathe. Flail chest can result in a pulmonary contusion. This prevents oxygen exchange by causing the alveoli in the lungs to fill up with blood. Chest trauma can also cause blood to fill up space around the heart. This is known as a "Pericardial Tamponade" and prevents the heart from expanding fully, reducing the pulse.
Other organs are also vulnerable to injury due to chest trauma in a car accident. The spleen stores white blood cells and recycle old red blood cells. It is susceptible to rupture due to trauma from a car accident. The liver is a vital organ that can suffer a laceration in a car accident due to chest trauma. Either of these injuries can cause serious internal bleeding.
How Does a Car Accident Doctor Diagnose Chest Injuries?
It is necessary to establish the seriousness of the injury and determine whether it involves bone, soft tissue, or both. In addition to a physical examination, the doctor may perform imaging studies such as X-rays as these can demonstrate bone fractures and lung collapse. If internal bleeding is suspected, the doctor can inject contrast dye into the blood vessels. The dye shows up on X-rays, giving cross-sectional images of the chest cavity and showing the contours of veins and arteries.
CityWide Injury is a chiropractic clinic in Houston focusing primarily on injuries from car accidents. Our many services include diagnosing and determining the extent of your injuries and referring you to the appropriate medical specialist as needed. Find out more about how we can help with common car accident injuries.
Visit a Car Accident Doctor for Your Chest Injuries | City Wide Injury & Accident – Houston, TX