Internal Injuries Suffered in Vehicle Accidents 

November 6, 2017 / Vehicle Accidents

Some of the deadliest car accident injuries are also the toughest to identify. Internal injuries put patients at immediate risk, but may not be evident until hours, even days, after the individual should have received medical attention. Princess Diana is the perfect example; the tragic car accident that ended her life caused severe internal injuries.

Unsure as to whether your recent car accident resulted in internal injuries? Keep reading to learn more about common injuries, their symptoms, and treatment options.


Better known as a collapsed lung, pneumothorax occurs when air accumulates in the space between the chest wall and lung, pushing on the outside of the lung and eventually causing it to collapse. Although occasionally the result of an underlying lung disease, pneumothorax more frequently follows penetrating chest injuries, such as fractured ribs (which constitute an unfortunately common car accident injury). Mild pneumothorax often heals on its own, but severe cases induced by car crashes may require invasive procedures such as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery or thoracotomy, in which an incision in the chest allows surgeons to repair the lung.

Ruptured Spleen

Marked by pain in the upper left abdomen and the left shoulder, a ruptured spleen involves a break in the spleen’s surface. This is typically caused by blunt force. Ruptured spleens always require emergency medical intervention. Without prompt attention, the injury could quickly lead to severe internal bleeding. Mild damage can heal on its own during a hospital-supervised recovery period. More commonly, however, victims require stitches, splenectomy (removal of the spleen), or partial splenectomy.

Seat Belt Syndrome

Seat belts prevent thousands, even tens of thousands, of deaths every year. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over half of car crash victims in 2015 were not restrained by seat belts at the time of the collision. Unfortunately, while seat belt use is imperative, the very devices that protect us also occasionally cause injury.

In select negligence-based car accidents, the victim suffers a phenomenon known as seat belt syndrome, in which the body is propelled forward and then backwards again. These motions cause spinal fractures and, often, bowel perforation. As with many internal injuries, the condition may not be evident to medical professionals until hours or days after the collision.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm involves an enlarged portion of the body’s major blood vessel (the aorta). Typically associated with smoking, high blood pressure, or hardening of the arteries, abdominal aortic aneurysm can also occur due to blunt force trauma. Car accident victims who suffer abdominal aortic aneurysm risk rupture, which, as Mayo Clinic experts explain, could cause life-threatening bleeding. Emergency surgery is often necessary, but can be risky in and of itself.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

Similar to abdominal aortic aneurysm but exceedingly rare, thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the chest. Thoracic aortic aneurysm may lead to dissection, or a tear, in the artery wall that often causes life-threatening bleeding. This type of aneurysm can also prompt dangerous blood clots, which may eventually block blood vessels elsewhere and cause major complications.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms nearly always develop slowly over time. Experts at the U.S. National Library of Medicine explain that the condition is often prompted by genetic predisposition. However, aortic aneurysms are far from unheard of in traumatic injuries, including car crashes. Symptoms include chest pain, back pain, and shortness of breath.

Pulmonary Contusion

One of the most common causes of death among vehicle occupants involved in collisions, pulmonary contusion involves severe bruising of the lung, caused by blunt force trauma. Ensuing capillary damage can cause hypoxia, or inadequate oxygen supply. Pulmonary contusion can be difficult to spot; common signs include difficulty breathing, high-pitched wheezing, and coughing up blood. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may involve use of a nasal cannula, suctioning to remove blood blocking air passages, insertion of a chest tube, or mechanical ventilation.

Kidney Contusion

Bruised kidneys typically result from heavy impact to the lower back. Sufferers may witness blood in their urine or pain between the hips and ribs. If significantly injured, renal function may suffer, with the kidneys unable to effectively remove waste or balance electrolytes. Kidneys can also be damaged by blood clots stemming from thoracic or abdominal aortic aneurysm. Additionally, blood loss can impair blood flow, further harming kidney function. Victims who did not suffer blunt force to the lower back or actual bruising of the kidney may still suffer renal failure.

Delivering Justice for Car Accident Victims

Did you or a loved one suffer internal injuries due to another driver’s negligence? You can count on Indianapolis personal injury lawyer Mike Stephenson. Boasting over three decades of experience, Mike will fight aggressively on your behalf, all in the interest of delivering justice. Call 317-680-2501 today to schedule a free case consultation, or complete our online contact form.

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