When your body becomes trapped between two hard surfaces that squeeze it with great pressure, you suffer a crush injury that severely compresses your affected body part or parts. Not surprisingly, the longer you remain trapped, the more damage the crush injury does.
Common causes of crush injuries include the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Falls from heights
- Structural collapses
- Industrial machine accidents
- Fingers becoming trapped inside a door’s mechanisms
- Legs or arms becoming trapped under heavy objects
Crush injury symptoms
The most noticeable symptom of a crush injury is the intense pain you will feel in your affected body part(s). Other common symptoms include the following:
- Extensive bleeding
- Cuts and lacerations
- Nerve, ligament and muscle damage that may leave you unable to move
- Broken or splintered bones that may be visible due to the damage to your skin and underlying tissues
A crush injury represents a medical emergency. First responders need to get you untrapped as quickly as safely possible. Why? Because the longer the crushing force remains on your body, the more likelihood you will suffer crush syndrome.
This life-threatening condition begins approximately one hour after your crush injury occurs. As your damaged cells continue to bear the brunt of the crush, your blood circulation decreases, leading to hypovolemia and, ultimately, hypovolemic shock. Your skin becomes pale, you start to sweat, even though your skin feels cool and clammy, your breathing becomes rapid, and you may experience anxiety, agitation or confusion. Eventually you lose consciousness.
Hypovolemic shock, in turn, causes your organs to begin shutting down, leading to additional life-threatening conditions including cardiac arrhythmias and kidney failure.
Compartment syndrome represents yet another life-threatening complication of a crush injury. Here the swelling around your crushed area becomes too extensive for the fascia compartments surrounding your muscles hold. Your muscles consequently begin to die from lack of sufficient blood and therefore oxygen. As they die, they send toxins into your body that can quickly lead to a systemic infection that kills you.