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Watch for Lung Injuries From Broken Ribs After a Crash

During a Pennsylvania traffic accident, the physical impact or speed changes can compress and squeeze the bodies of everyone involved. This blunt force trauma causes a variety of injuries that are clearly distinct from abrasions and puncture wounds.

In these circumstances, broken ribs are both common and seriously dangerous traumatic injuries. A simple cracked rib—a fracture that only passes partially through the bone—will often involve significant pain that cannot be ignored. Typical symptoms of a hairline fracture or incomplete fracture are:

  • Pain when the injured person attempts to breathe.
  • Moderate to severe pain in the injured area.
  • Intensified pain in the area of the broken rib when the breastbone is compressed.

Painful as these broken ribs can be, they represent the minimum level of danger to long-term health. Complete fractures—where the bone has broken in two—and comminuted fractures—in which the rib has shattered into tiny pieces—magnify the risk of complications.

Complications from a broken rib from a Pennsylvania traffic accident

A dislodged fragment of rib bone presents extreme danger. Doctors identify three extremely grave internal injury risks from a broken rib fragment in the chest area:

  • Flail chest. When several adjacent ribs are broken in multiple places, a segment of the rib structure can detach from the inner wall of the chest. When this happens, the rib cage no longer can efficiently help breathing. The lungs are also bruised in the separation process. Flail chest is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
  • Traumatic pneumothorax is the term for air collecting in the space between the chest wall and the outside of the lungs. The lungs draw in air when the diaphragm—a sheet of muscle separating the chest and abdominal cavities—stretches. If the sharp bone of a new rib fracture pierces the chest wall, air can fill the chest cavity and prevent the lungs from expanding. Emergency medical care is needed to reinflate the collapsed lung.
  • Punctured lung. If a rib fragment pierces the lung, respiration may be immediately affected. Even if it is not, the results can include internal bleeding into lung tissue. Over a few days, this can develop into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), formerly known as noncardiac pulmonary edema. This buildup of fluid in the lungs can interfere with breathing or can disrupt the passage of oxygen to all body systems.

All lung injuries caused by broken ribs carry an additional risk: pneumonia. Patients will be encouraged to cough and breathe deeply (despite the pain) in order to prevent infection of lung tissue during the healing process.

Can you afford the treatment you need?

If someone else caused a Pennsylvania traffic accident that hurt you significantly, you may want to consider filing an injury claim. There is no reason you should suffer financially for medical expenses, lost work, rehabilitation and therapy sessions, and other losses. As we explain in our FREE brochure, Who Pays The Bills When You Are Injured In An Automobile Accident?, a legal claim against a negligent driver can guarantee your accident is not a calamity for your family’s budget.

To order a copy of that brochure or to schedule a FREE consultation with one of our car accident lawyers in Harrisburg, call Schmidt Kramer today at (717) 888-8888. Tell us about your case and we can let you know whether you may be eligible for financial compensation. At Schmidt Kramer, we provide personal injury representation for clients in Harrisburg, Camp Hill and all nearby Pennsylvania communities.