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Auto Accidents Can Lead to Esophageal Injuries

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Auto Accidents Can Lead to Esophageal Injuries


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 can develop 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 essential 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 thoroughly. 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 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 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 car effectively moves out from underneath the neck. While the body is strapped in by the seatbelt, the head and neck areas are not. The neck is forced to snap back as the vehicle is pushed forward by the accident.

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

Numerous complications can happen once someone has been diagnosed with an esophageal tear. One of the most severe is the development of a tracheal tear simultaneously. 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 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 severe 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 be hospitalized, 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: What happens if the insurance company won’t provide enough funding to replace the car, even for people who can return to work? 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 will 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

If you or someone you care about has suffered severe 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.

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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.18.22]

Photo by 𝙴rnily on Unsplash

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