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Thoracic Injury

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Thoracic Injury

Thoracic InjuryA thoracic injury is often life-threatening. Without immediate treatment, a thoracic injury can cause permanent organ damage or even death.

Here are some facts to know about thoracic injuries and how you can seek compensation for them.

What Is the Thoracic Cavity?

What Is the Thoracic Cavity?Your body has three sections. The middle section is called the thorax. The term “thoracic” refers to anything related to the thorax. The more common name for the thorax is “chest.”

But doctors use these terms in a specific way. They usually refer to musculoskeletal injuries as chest or thorax injuries. They refer to injuries to the vital organs in the thoracic or chest cavity as “thoracic injuries.”

The chest wall has an airtight lining to define the pleural space. This space maintains a vacuum so your lungs can expand with air. The ribs protect the chest wall and give it structure.

The thoracic cavity extends from the bottom of your neck to your diaphragm and contains several vital organs, including the following:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Major blood vessels
  • Trachea
  • Esophagus

The nerves that control these and other organs also pass through the thoracic cavity.

Every cell in your body needs the oxygen your heart and lungs deliver. Blood travels to your lungs through the pulmonary artery, picking up the oxygen you inhale. This oxygenated blood returns to the heart, where it gets pumped through the aorta to the rest of your body.

When the blood reaches your cells, the blood cells drop off oxygen needed for cell metabolism. They pick up carbon dioxide waste and carry it back to the heart through the veins. The heart pumps the oxygen-depleted blood through the pulmonary artery and back to the lungs, repeating the cycle.

What Can Cause a Thoracic Injury?

Thoracic injuries usually happen in two ways:

Penetrating Injury

A penetrating injury happens when a foreign object pierces the chest and enters the thoracic cavity.

A penetrating thoracic injury is hazardous because it can:

  • Damage organs
  • Create an air leak
  • Cause internal bleeding
  • Become infected

Penetrating injuries can occur as a result of a workplace accident. Falls are the most common cause of workplace injuries, and a fall onto a sharp object can cause a penetrating thoracic injury.

You can also suffer penetrative trauma in a traffic accident. If you get ejected from a motorcycle or bicycle or get hit in a pedestrian accident, you can be struck by a sharp object that pierces your chest wall.

Blunt Injury

Blunt injuries happen when you get hit by an object that does not leave an open wound. Blunt thoracic injuries can occur in an elevated fall, a slip and fall, a car accident, or other types of accidents.

You may not believe that a blunt blow to your chest could damage the organs inside your thoracic cavity, but such an injury can tear the tissue inside your chest cavity, leading to internal bleeding, which itself can lead to many other serious problems.

What Types of Thoracic Injuries Can Occur?

Chest injuries can take many different forms, depending on the structures you injure.

Collapsed Lung

When you inhale, your muscles expand the space around your lungs so they can expand. But this space contains a vacuum, so your lungs do not need to fight against air pressure to fill with air.

When the space around your lungs, called the pleural space, loses this vacuum, the lungs cannot expand. When you exhale, they collapse and cannot refill.

When this space fills with air, you suffer a collapsed lung (pneumothorax). A pneumothorax can result from a penetrating thoracic injury that allows air to rush into the pleural space.

Symptoms of a collapsed lung include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gasping breaths
  • Coughing

If you do not receive emergency medical treatment, a collapsed lung can permanently damage your lungs or even kill you. To treat a collapsed lung, a doctor must remove the air or blood surrounding the lungs so the lung can re-expand. The doctor must then seal the leak that allowed the space around the lungs to be filled.

When the space fills with blood, you suffer a hemothorax. A hemothorax can happen whenever you have internal bleeding in your thoracic cavity.

Cardiac Tamponade

The pericardium surrounds the heart. This membrane protects the heart from infections. It also forms a sac around the heart that prevents it from rubbing against other tissues and wearing out.

Cardiac tamponade happens when fluid fills the pericardium. Fluid in the pericardium can strangle the heart and prevent it from beating correctly.

Symptoms of cardiac tamponade include:

  • Chest pain
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid pulse
  • Gray skin
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms result from your body and brain not receiving enough blood. Without emergency treatment, you could die.

Doctors treat cardiac tamponade by removing the fluid from the pericardium. This is often done by inserting a needle into the pericardium through your chest wall, though in some cases, you will also need surgery to repair the leak that caused the condition.

Torn Aorta

All the blood that exits your heart passes through the aorta. The aorta can rupture from a penetrating injury. It can also tear from the stress of a blunt blow to the chest.

A tear in the upper aorta will kill you within a few minutes. A tear in the lower aorta might leave you time to seek medical attention. Without medical attention, a tear in the lower aorta will result in death from internal bleeding.

What Compensation Can You Seek for a Thoracic Injury?

You can seek injury compensation for any thoracic damage that resulted from someone else’s negligence. This compensation can cover your medical costs and lost income. It can also cover your diminished quality of life resulting from pain, suffering, and disability.

A thoracic injury can cause considerable pain and anguish. It can often cause life-threatening injuries that require expensive emergency treatment. Contact the Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel Personal Injury Lawyers at (212) 564 2800 for a free consultation to discuss the compensation you can seek for your thoracic injury.

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