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Auto Accidents Can Lead to Esophageal Injuries

neck

The neck is one of the most vulnerable areas of the body because it houses vital organs and lacks any significant bony protection. Because it is also a narrow structure, it is prone to developing major injuries with sudden movements. This is how the esophagus can be damaged in rear-impact car crashes, as a recent publication demonstrates.

Numerous Mechanisms of Esophageal Injuries

The esophagus is one of the most important organs in the body. It transmits food from the mouth to the stomach and uses enzymes to start the digestive process, providing nutrition to all areas of the body. This long tube is located in the neck and is prone to traumatic injury in several ways, including:

  • Choking: One of the most common ways this organ can be damaged is through choking. Sometimes, people take too big of a bite or forget to chew their food completely. This can stretch the muscles of the esophagus to the point of tearing.
  • Pedestrian Injuries: Pedestrians struck by cars or bicycles while crossing the street can sustain neck or chest trauma. The esophagus runs from the mouth to the stomach, located in the abdomen, so trauma to any location between these two points can lead to esophageal damage.
  • Auto Accidents: Those who are involved in an auto accident can also develop serious esophageal injuries. Whether it is a blunt or penetrating injury, any significant damage to the neck can lead to a tear in the esophagus. A recent review article described just how esophageal tears can occur in car accidents where a vehicle has been rear-ended. These accidents could even be fatal.
Car Accidents Can Cause Esophageal Damage

A research paper has been published describing just how a car accident involving a vehicle that has been rear-ended can lead to significant esophageal damage. When someone is stopped at a red light, their neck is stationary. Hopefully, their body is restrained by the seatbelt. If the vehicle is suddenly struck from behind, the vehicle effectively moves out from underneath the neck. While the body is strapped in by the seatbelt, the head and neck areas are not. This means that as the car is pushed forward by the accident, the neck is forced to snap backward.

Even with the headrest behind the head, the neck still moves a significant distance at high speed. This sudden movement can stretch the esophagus to the point of tearing. People may notice symptoms that include the feeling of swallowing blood, pain while swallowing food, and, potentially, choking. Anyone who has suspicions of an esophageal tear needs to seek medical attention immediately.

Complications of Esophageal Tears

Once someone has been diagnosed with an esophageal tear, numerous complications can happen. One of the most severe is the development of a tracheal tear at the same time. These two structures are right next to each other, and it is not unusual to tear both. A tracheal tear can be a life-threatening injury that can make it difficult for someone to breathe.

The paper also discusses the development of a complication called mediastinitis. There are enzymes in the saliva in the esophagus that help digest food; however, a tear in the throat can release these enzymes into the chest cavity, called the mediastinum. These enzymes could start to digest the body's own tissues in the chest cavity just as they digest food in the esophagus. This can create irritation in the chest called mediastinitis. If severe, this can be a life-threatening complication.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer Can Provide a Helping Hand

When someone has been involved in a serious car accident, particularly one that involves a catastrophic personal injury, there are numerous sources of stress that an individual or a family might feel. These include:

  • Missing Work: When someone has been injured to the point of requiring hospitalization, they will likely miss an extended amount of work. After people use up their vacation and sick days, they could start to lose their paycheck. How is a family supposed to make ends meet without this source of income?
  • Property Replacement: Even for people who can return to work, what happens if the insurance company won't provide enough funding to replace the car? How is someone supposed to get from point A to point B?
  • Medical Bills: Many people assume that their health insurance provider will cover the costs of their medical care; however, there are still large deductibles and, potentially, co-insurance costs that must be paid. This alone can leave people wondering where this funding is going to come from.

A caring, compassionate Sacramento personal injury lawyer has experience dealing with these issues. An attorney can help guide and remove a significant amount of stress, so the family can focus on their medical recovery.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. If you or someone you care about has suffered serious injuries in an accident, you can receive friendly, free advice by calling 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400.

We are members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

See our client reviews on GoogleYelp, and Avvo and case history of verdicts and settlements.

Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 3.24.21]

Photo by 𝙴𝚕𝚒𝚣𝚊𝚟𝚎𝚝𝚊 🕊 on Unsplash

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