Victims in catastrophic car accidents, such as rollovers or pileups, can suffer a wide range of injuries. One injury that is not always so obvious to detect is crush injury. A crush injury occurs when a body part is subjected to a high degree of force or pressure, usually after being squeezed between or under heavy objects or as a result of extreme forces such as from a collision and can lead to further complications. Doctors do not come across crush injuries on a regular basis in trauma, but when encountered, can be fatal.
Most common crush injury complications include:
- Bleeding or bruising
- Nerve injuries
- Hyperkalemia – usually occurs as a result of a crushed limb. The ruptured muscle releases chemicals such as potassium and phosphate into the blood stream and can cause heart problems, and possible sudden cardiac death.
- Rhabdomyolysis or crush syndrome – occurs when muscle is sufficiently damaged to a point that the muscle fiber contents (called myoglobin) is released into the bloodstream which can be harmful to the kidneys and result in kidney damage.
- Compartment syndrome – a serious condition that involves increased pressure in muscle compartment. A compartment is a confined space that separate groups of muscles in the arms and legs from each other. Hallmark symptoms are constant severe pain when the affected area is elevated, and pain medication proving ineffective. This increase in pressure can lead to muscle damage, nerve damage, problems with blood flow and even amputation.
Although most common crush injuries generally occur in natural disasters such as tornados and earthquakes, it can still occur in catastrophic personal injury and motor vehicle accident cases.