Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

Definition

A pulmonary contusion is a bruise-like injury to the lungs.

The Lungs (cut-away view)

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Causes

A pulmonary contusion is caused by blunt trauma or occasionally by penetrating trauma to the chest wall.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of pulmonary contusion include:

  • Being in a motor vehicle accident
  • Playing contact sports
  • Gunshot wound to the chest
  • Falls in the home
  • Taking blood thinners

Symptoms

Symptoms may not occur right away but can develop and worsen 24-48 hours after the injury. Symptoms can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnosis

You will be asked about how you got injured, your symptoms, and your medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your bodily fluids may be tested with blood tests to look for signs of internal bleeding.

Images may be taken of your chest to look for evidence of damage to lung tissue or other chest structures. This can be done with:

Treatment

A pulmonary contusion can also result in complications, such as a collapsed lung or chest bleeding. It may also go along with other chest injuries, such as broken ribs or lung laceration. These injuries can interfere with the ability to breathe properly. Without proper treatment, complications, such as pneumonia, may result.

Treatment will depend on the severity of your injury and other injuries you may also have. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Close monitoring will be needed. Emergency care may include:

  • Pain medication
  • Oxygen therapy to improve the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • Mechanical ventilation to take over or support breathing if the lung is severely damaged

Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication may be advised to reduce pain.

Prevention

Prevention will depend on the cause, but may include:

  • Wearing appropriate safety equipment when playing contact sports
  • Wearing a seatbelt when in a motor vehicle to help prevent accident-related chest trauma