Thoracic Injury

If you’ve ever experienced a car accident or other traumatic event, you know the feeling of sheer terror that hits at the moment of impact. And in the moments after the incident, it can be difficult to tell how injured you really are.

Some life-threatening injuries don’t look too bad from the outside. And often, thoracic injuries fall into that category. Here’s what to know about thoracic injuries.

What Is a Thoracic Injury?

What Is a Thoracic Injury?

A thoracic injury is an injury to the chest area. More specifically, it’s an injury to a region of the body called the “thorax,” which is between the base of your neck and the beginning of your abdomen.

There are many organs in this area, so as you might imagine, there are many different kinds of thoracic injuries. 

Here are some common ones:

  • Fractured ribs
  • Fractured sternum (breastbone)
  • Collapsed lungs (also called pneumothorax)
  • Hemothorax (a condition where blood builds up between your lungs and your chest wall)
  • Flail chest (a condition where three or more ribs are broken in two or more places)
  • Lung contusion (similar to a lung bruise)
  • Aortic disruption (when your aorta ruptures)
  • Cardiac tamponade (pressure on the heart from too much surrounding fluid)

Thoracic injuries cause about a quarter of all traumatic deaths in the United States. In many cases, thoracic injuries must be treated immediately in order to prevent death

That can be harder than it sounds — it’s possible (and actually fairly common) to appear physically unharmed from the outside, even when you have a serious thoracic injury.

What Are the Main Causes of Thoracic Injuries?

Thoracic injuries are especially dangerous. But what causes them? Research indicates that car accidents are the main cause of thoracic injuries. 

Here’s a breakdown of the most common causes of these potentially devastating injuries:

  • Car and truck accidents: 70%
  • Suicides: 10%
  • Falls: 8%
  • Homicides: 7%
  • Other causes: 5%

Notably, thoracic injuries are the main cause of death within the first three decades of life. Because these injuries are so deadly (and often hard to spot), it’s wise to get familiar with some of the main symptoms.

What Are the Potential Symptoms of a Thoracic Injury?

There are many different kinds of thoracic injuries, so the symptoms can vary dramatically. 

However, if you notice any of these symptoms after an accident, get medical help immediately:

  • Pain when you breathe in
  • Coughing up blood
  • Trouble breathing or feeling short of breath
  • Chest pain that worsens with coughing, sneezing, or laughter
  • Noticeable chest bruising or swelling
  • A feeling of “crunchiness” or “crackling” under your skin

Even if these symptoms seem mild, make sure to mention them to the medical professionals who arrive on the scene. Thoracic injuries can get very bad very quickly. The sooner yours is treated, the better your chance of a full recovery.

Keep in mind that if you’ve just been in a car accident or suffered another kind of unexpected injury, it can be hard to tell if you’re hurt. Many people go into shock in these situations, so the pain of an injury might not surface until later. 

Even if you think you’re physically fine, it’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor after a serious accident.

What Factors Increase Your Risk of a Thoracic Injury?

While car accidents are responsible for more thoracic injuries than any other cause, some car crashes pose a higher risk of thoracic injury than others. There are several main risk factors for getting a thoracic injury in a car accident.

High-Speed Crashes

The human body is highly resilient, and your thoracic region is well-protected by your ribcage. However, if there’s enough speed and force, that protection isn’t enough. The faster your vehicle was going at the moment of impact, the greater your chance of a thoracic injury.

Not Wearing a Seat Belt 

Seat belts can’t prevent every kind of injury, but they help ensure that your body doesn’t become a projectile in the event of a crash. In a car accident, the impact often stops the car, but inertia carries your body forward. You might be thrown into the windshield or even ejected from the vehicle.

Being at Least 66 Years Old

Research indicates that people 66 and older are predisposed to thoracic injuries in car crashes. As people get older, their bones usually become more fragile, including the ribcage. 

What Factors Increase Your Risk of Death From a Thoracic Injury?

Thoracic injuries are often serious and can be life-threatening. 

There are a few factors that make a thoracic injury more likely to be fatal:

  • Suffering a penetrating trauma (an injury that pierces the chest wall)
  • Having three or more rib fractures
  • Being 65 or older
  • Having a pre-existing disease (especially one related to the heart or lungs) before the injury
  • Developing pneumonia during the healing stage of the injury

It’s essential to get medical treatment as soon as possible after your injury. Always follow your doctor’s directions for follow-up care to reduce your risk of getting pneumonia or developing other complications. Doing so could save your life after suffering a thoracic injury.

How Are Thoracic Injuries Diagnosed?

Unless you have a penetrating chest injury (an injury where something has visibly pierced the chest wall), it can be difficult to determine whether you have a thoracic injury. 

Often, doctors use chest X-rays, CT scans, and even ultrasounds to determine whether you have a thoracic injury. Chest X-rays can show you more than just bone issues — they can also show the doctor if your lung is bruised or collapsed.

Often, a doctor or other medical professional will use a pulse oximeter to measure the concentration of oxygen in your blood. Pulse oximeters are small devices that you clip to your finger. If your blood oxygen saturation is low (especially if it keeps dropping lower), it might be a sign of a chest injury.

You Might Be Entitled to Compensation If You Suffered a Thoracic Injury

Thoracic injuries are often incredibly painful, and recovering from them can be an arduous journey. Between medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, and diminished quality of life, it can be hard to envision your life ever getting back to normal.

Financial compensation can’t undo the injury or magically restore you to health. However, it can lessen the stress you and your family face as you recover. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, contact Malone Law Medical Malpractice and Severe Injury Lawyers to schedule your free consultation today.