How Internal Organs Can Be Damaged in a Car Crash

When a car travelling at highway speeds is forced to a sudden stop in a collision, the impact forces on the occupants are tremendous. Drivers and passengers who are not wearing seatbelts can be thrown into the dash, windshield, steering wheel, front seats, or even out of the vehicle. Even occupants wearing seat belts can be injured as the seatbelt forcefully restrains them. These types of blunt force trauma can cause a variety of serious injuries, including damage to internal organs.

Organs That Are Commonly Damaged in Crashes

Internal organs can suffer impact injuries due to the tremendous force that is placed on the body in a crash and they can also suffer penetrating injuries, caused by objects cutting through the flesh and puncturing the organs. Whether someone suffers an impact injury or a penetrating injury, the organs that are most frequently damaged in car crashes include the following:

  1. Spleen. The spleen is a commonly injured organ due to its position in the abdomen—under the left rib cage near the stomach. When someone suffers a blow to the abdomen, the spleen may be perforated or ruptured, leading to a large amount of internal bleeding. While treatment and recovery depend on the severity of the injury, sometimes a damaged spleen needs to be removed. Although people can live without their spleens, the lack of a spleen can compromise the immune system and put someone at risk for life-threatening infections.
  2. Liver. The liver is located on the right side of the belly and is actually the body’s largest internal organ. It is responsible for making proteins necessary for blood clotting, producing chemicals necessary for digestion, metabolizing toxins, and producing bile among other things. Because it has multiple functions and is an essential organ that is required for the body to function properly, liver damage can be quite serious. If the liver is damaged, pain in the upper right region of the abdomen may be a symptom. Other signs of liver damage can include a distended abdomen, significant blood loss, and a weak pulse. Although most liver injuries are minor and can be treated non-invasively, some significant liver injuries require surgery and some may even lead to death if an excessive amount of blood is lost.
  3. Kidneys. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that sit on each side of the spine, just below the ribs. They filter blood to produce urine and waste. Due to the location of the kidneys, damage to these organs can occur when someone’s mid-to-low back is injured in a crash. A sign of kidney damage is blood in the urine. If the kidneys are seriously damaged or torn, a kidney transplant and the need for dialysis may be required. Even if surgery isn’t required, complications can still occur that include recurrent infections, urine leakage, and blood pressure issues. It is important to note that kidney damage is sometimes not apparent right away and delayed bleeding can occur, which can be life-threatening.

Although some injuries to internal organs are very apparent, sometimes symptoms aren’t visible and may be delayed. This is why internal organ injuries are sometimes referred to as ‘hidden’ injuries and symptoms may not develop for hours or days after a crash. For this reason, it is always best to seek a thorough medical evaluation after being involved in an auto accident, especially if you have any amount of pain, dizziness, and/or weakness.

If you or a loved one suffered internal injuries after a motor vehicle accident that was not your fault, please give our office a call for a free consultation.