Crush injuries can happen in almost any kind of accident. Your legs might get pinned under the dashboard of your vehicle after a car accident. Or, your arm could get caught in industrial machinery in a workplace accident.
These injuries can cause severe pain. They may require a long recovery time or result in permanent damage. Crush injuries can even result in immediate death from the initial accident or days later from crush syndrome.
Here are the things you should know about crush injuries and their long-term effects.
What is a Crush Injury?
Crush injuries result from traumatic compression of a body part. This can happen when the body gets:
- Pinned under a heavy object
- Trapped between objects
- Caught in machinery
- Entangled in a collapsed vehicle
Crush injuries can occur in many types of accidents, including workplace accidents, construction accidents, car accidents, or accidents with falling objects.
How Do Crush Injuries Happen?
Crush injuries can damage the body in many ways. The initial crushing action can break bones and rip muscle and skin. As a result, you could suffer from bleeding, torn muscles, and fractured or shattered bones.
When a body part remains trapped, additional damage can accumulate. As the object compresses blood vessels, bleeding may stop. But this also starves tissue of oxygen, which can make your cells begin to die.
The crushing action might also cause nerve damage. As the pressure crushes the body part, nerves deform. Deformed nerves lose some ability to transmit nerve signals. This can result in a loss of sensation and motor control in the crushed body part.
What Are the Immediate Effects of Crush Injuries?
Immediately after a crush injury, you may experience:
- Fractured bones
You may also suffer additional injuries due to the efforts made to extricate you from the object that trapped you. You might receive burns or cuts as rescuers pry the object away. In extreme situations, a rescuer might even need to amputate your limb to free you.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Crush Injuries?
Crush injuries can lead to several unexpected long-term effects.
When bones shatter due to crushing injuries, doctors may reconstruct the bones with plates and screws. This could leave you with chronic pain in the reconstructed areas. If the fracture occurred in a joint, you could develop arthritis.
Occasionally, doctors cannot repair the shattered bone. They may need to replace the missing pieces with a bone graft from another part of your body or a donor. Bone grafts can develop complications, such as inflammation, chronic pain, and rejection of a donated bone.
When crushing force stops circulation in a body part, tissue in that body part can die.
For example, suppose that your arm gets trapped inside a machine. While you are trapped, your arm muscles might not get the blood flow necessary to keep them alive. When rescuers free your arm, the restored blood flow cannot revive tissue that already died. As a result, your arm may atrophy due to the dead tissue.
During the time that the crushing force stops your circulation, your blood may begin to clot. When circulation resumes after rescuers free you, the blood clots might travel to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack stroke.
Crush syndrome, also called rhabdomyolysis, describes the set of symptoms you might experience as your body tries to deal with the physical trauma of being crushed.
One of the most common symptoms of crush syndrome is kidney dysfunction. The kidneys clean your blood. If a lot of tissue died due to the crush injury, the number of dead cells in your blood might overwhelm your kidneys’ ability to filter your blood. You might experience kidney failure as a result.
Some other effects of crush syndrome include:
- Respiratory distress
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Heart arrhythmia
These medical conditions can occur days or weeks after the crushing accident. In some cases, the effects of crush syndrome can kill you.
Tough tissue called fascia surrounds your muscles. When muscle tissue sustains damage in a crushing accident, it may experience swelling and inflammation.
But the fascia does not expand. Swelling can cause an increase in pressure on the tissue. This pressure can damage nerves and cut off circulation below the swelling. This can cause a loss of sensation and coordination in the affected area. It can also lead to further tissue death due to a lack of oxygen below the swelling.
How Are Crush Injuries Treated?
At the accident scene, EMTs need to first extract a person from the objects that are crushing them. This might require equipment like hydraulic cutters and spreaders (also known as the jaws of life) to pry open machinery or the car.
After a rescue, responders may provide first aid by stopping any bleeding and making sure that the heart and lungs function normally. They will then transport individuals to an emergency room, where doctors can begin to treat the crush injuries.
In many cases, doctors have limited options for treating injuries like these. If the accident shattered bones, an orthopedic surgeon might reconstruct the bones.
But doctors cannot reconstruct dead or missing tissue. In severe cases, doctors have no way to treat the damage except by amputation.
Even when doctors can reconstruct tissue, you may still suffer from crush syndrome as your body expels dead tissue. Doctors can monitor you for signs of crush syndrome, such as dark urine.
Since crush syndrome can appear days or even weeks after the accident, you may face extensive doctor visits and medical treatments after being crushed.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Recover For Crush Injuries?
Because crush injuries have both short-term and long-term effects, the compensation you need after an accident could be substantial. You might be eligible for money for medical treatment, physical therapy, and medication.
You might never recover the full functionality of the crushed body part. As a result, you may need to quit work or change jobs. This may call for compensation for lost income and diminished earning capacity.
Finally, you may have both physical and mental anguish after your accident. Being crushed is painful and traumatic. Compensation for your crush injury may include your pain and suffering.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
To learn more about recovering compensation after a crush injury, contact the team at Hasner Law, PC. We’ll arrange a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney to help you explore your legal options.