Crush Injuries: Causes and Symptoms
Some of the most common physical ailments people suffer in various accidents are crush injuries. These often happen due to auto and truck collisions, industrial accidents, machine malfunctions, bad falls, building (or ceiling) collapses, transportation incidents, natural disasters, and other events.
Crush injuries develop when one or more parts of the body are severely compressed between hard surfaces. When this happens, the oxygen and blood flow to the person’s tissues in the affected areas are severely limited. This initially causes ischemia after several hours can cause the damaged tissues to die (resulting in necrosis).
When first responders and emergency room doctors first examine patients with severe crush injuries, they look for the following symptoms – fully aware that various medical complications can quickly set in — compromising the chances for a full recovery.
Common Symptoms of Crush Injuries
While many of the symptoms listed below are often seen by doctors, their work is often complicated when the patients have lost consciousness and cannot describe exactly what happened to them.
Depending on the severity of their symptoms, patients often develop what’s known as “compartment syndrome.” This often occurs when the pressure within the affected tissues rises higher than the pressure within the blood vessels of the closed “compartment” (or damaged part of the body). Ischemia (loss of oxygen) is then apparent and can lead to the death (necrosis) of the affected nerves and muscles.
As these injuries occur, the patient’s overlying or covering soft tissues, supporting ligaments and neurovascular structures are further damaged.
As Conditions Listed Above Worsen – They Can Lead to More Threatening Ailments
When a crush injury is especially severe, the damaged tissues and muscle fibers can release electrolytes and cellular byproducts such as potassium and myoglobin into the bloodstream. The body’s response to these chemicals can produce rhabdomyolysis – or “crush syndrome.” Once this is present, the patient may suffer acute kidney problems (leading to renal failure) and heart arrhythmias that may even cause death.
Construction Site Workers Are Among Those Most Likely to Suffer Crush Injuries
Safety training is crucial for all these employees so they can minimize their chances of suffering crush injuries. Every day, these workers can accidentally hit their thumbs or fingers with hammers or have large objects (like steel beams) fall on them, crushing one or more body parts. Construction workers can also suffer crush injuries when large forklifts and dump trucks pass nearby — failing to see them as they deposit or drop their loads.
Yet some of the most common crush injuries occur when construction workers are handling power presses and other machines that require extreme manual dexterity that’s often only gained through years of experience. Machine guarding is critical in preventing body parts from being crushed to the point that they must be amputated.
Given the unrelenting physical demands of construction work, supervisors and managers should regularly require work breaks that can help all employees rest enough so they can return to their assigned tasks with enough energy and focus to avoid crush injuries.
During this past year, many new serious accidents resulted in crush injuries, including one that took place in Queens. While preparing to do work on a house, a decision was made to deposit 2,000 pounds of concrete, beams and sand on its two-story roof. Shortly thereafter, the load crashed down into the house, trapping three construction workers beneath it. While one worker was quickly rescued, two others had to be hospitalized in serious condition. One of the men was pinned or “crushed” beneath roughly 1,000 pounds of materials.