Tear of the Trachea

Tear of the Trachea

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Most people understand that there is a chance that an accident could occur whenever someone sets foot inside of a motor vehicle. Furthermore, even the most minor of accidents can lead to personal injuries; however, these injuries can range markedly in severity from one to the next. Some people can sustain an injury to their neck which could compromise the trachea. An injury to the trachea is serious and could be life-threatening, as a recent case study highlights.

What is the Role of the Trachea?

The trachea, also called the windpipe, is located in the neck and helps to transport air between the lungs and the outside world. When someone inhales, oxygen travels through the nose and mouth down the neck and into the lungs via the trachea. Once in the lungs, the oxygen moves from the lungs into the bloodstream where it provides fuel to vital organs. When someone exhales, the carbon dioxide moves from the bloodstream into the lungs is transported into the trachea. The carbon dioxide moves from the trachea into the mouth and is expelled on exhale. Furthermore, the trachea also contains the vocal cords. When someone speaks, the air moves quickly by the vocal cords and causes them to vibrate at various frequencies. This creates the audible sound that people call speech. Finally, the trachea also has a small covering over the top that helps to control the direction of food. The epiglottis sits at the top and covers the trachea when someone swallows food and beverages. This helps to ensure that these substances go down the esophagus instead of the trachea. If this food passes down the trachea instead, this could lead to pneumonia. Because the trachea plays an important role in ensuring that the rest of the body has enough oxygen, a traumatic injury to the trachea is always considered serious. It is also possible for someone to sustain these injuries in an auto accident, as a recent case study discusses.

A Motor Vehicle Accident

A middle-aged woman was traveling down the interstate and was involved in an accident that took place at a decent speed. Shortly before the accident, she had surgery to remove a form of thyroid cancer from her neck, making her more vulnerable to neck trauma and head trauma. In the accident, she sustained trauma to the neck and spinal area of her body that had caused an air leak in her trachea. Injuries to the trachea are serious because not only do they compromise someone's ability to provide oxygen to the rest of their body but there are other important structures in the neck that could be injured as well. For example, someone could sustain a serious injury to their esophagus or spinal cord with trauma to the neck which could include numerous bone fractures to the vertebrae as well. The patient involved in this case was able to answer some questions with a "yes" or a "no" with a nod of the head. Because the trachea was leaking air, she was having a hard time forming words and passing air through her vocal cords. Due to the risk of polytrauma in an accident, particularly abdominal trauma, the team performed an ultrasound of the abdomen to rule out any fluid leakage in the intra-abdominal compartment. This fluid leakage could be internal bleeding, which could be fatal. After ruling out an abdominal injury, they decided to intubate the patient due to the compromised airway. When they went to intubate the patient, they found an almost complete transection of the trachea near the cervical vertebrae. Furthermore, almost 80 percent of the trachea was lacerated near the top of the structure.

The Repair

When someone suffers an injury to their trachea that causes an air leak, the most pressing issue on the table is the repair of the laceration. The medical team went in and closed up the gap using surgical sutures; however, it is just as important to ensure that other structures aren't injured as well. The rest of the neck was explored to ensure that the esophagus, carotid arteries, jugular veins, and spinal cord were all intact. After this, not only did the trachea have the be repaired but the muscles that protect the trachea had to be repaired as well. Once all of these structures have been closed up, the patient is monitored using imaging scans to make sure that air is not collecting around the surgical site. If it is, this indicates that air is still leaking from the trachea and the further exploration and repair are necessary. Only after the injury repair has been verified can the patient be extubated and allowed to breathe on their own. Someone who has collected significant medical bills from repairs such as these should understand that legal options are available for assistance with these bills. For more information contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Sacramento.


Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer Ed Smith

Experienced Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. If you've been injured in an accident, call me for free, friendly advice at 916.921.6400.

The state of California's chapter of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum has included me in its membership. Many lists of some of the top trial attorneys in the United States have included personal injury attorneys from our ranks. The members of this group have received verdicts and helped to settle cases valued at over $1 Million dollars.

Some of my earlier verdicts and settlements are up for review here.

Many ratings given by earlier customers are available on Avvo, Yelp, and Google Plus.

Image Attribution: Version 3.0 of the CC BY SA License has given permission for reproduction of this image, found originally on Wikimedia Commons.

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