Understanding Internal Injuries

What are Internal Injuries?

An internal injury is any trauma that involves the organs or cavities of the body.

(An internal injury is not to be confused with a soft tissue injury.)

“Blunt force trauma” is caused by an impact that doesn’t break the skin.  This is distinguished from “penetrating trauma,” in which an object such as a knife, glass, a bullet, or shrapnel enters the body.

Blunt force trauma most often occurs in motor vehicle accidents when a driver or passenger hits the window, dashboard, seatbelt, or steering wheel.

An air bag can also cause blunt force trauma to a child seated in the front seat of a car. An airbag comes out of the dashboard at up to 200 miles per hour – faster than the blink of an eye.

Although air bags can prevent injuries to adults, they can cause injuries to children – which is why children 12 and under should ride buckled up in a back seat whenever possible.  If this isn’t possible, then the front-seat airbag should be disabled.  Some car seats are designed to detect the weight of a child and do this automatically.

Infants in rear-facing child safety seats should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger-side air bag.

Common Internal Injuries Caused by Motor Vehicle Accidents

Some of the most common internal injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents include:

  • Broken ribs that puncture or damage lungs (Pneumothorax) or other internal organs or blood vessels
  • Abdominal aorta aneurysm (a rupture in the abdominal aorta caused by a compressed stomach, often causing death within minutes)
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • A ruptured spleen

Abdominal Trauma

Abdominal trauma is the most common form of blunt force trauma, representing 75% of blunt trauma injuries.

Abdominal trauma can cause internal bleeding, tearing, or rupture of internal organs.

Internal Bleeding

Internal bleeding can be caused by blunt trauma when a body part collides with something, usually at high speed (as in a car, bike, or pedestrian accident).  Blood vessels inside the body are damaged by rapid acceleration or deceleration or are crushed.

Internal bleeding can also be caused when a foreign object such as the steering wheel, glass, or a piece of wreckage from an accident enters the body.

The most serious forms of internal bleeding are:

  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the head)
  • Hemopericardium and cardiac tamponade (bleeding around the heart)
  • Hemothorax (bleeding around the lungs)
  • Tears in the large blood vessels (such as the aorta)
  • Lacerations to the spleen or liver

In most cases of internal bleeding, the extent of the injury is obvious.  However, internal injuries can also be caused by accidents that seem less serious at the time, and the symptoms may not appear right away.

Symptoms of internal bleeding include:

  • Abdominal pain and/or swelling that worsens over time
  • A large area of deep purple skin (a very large bruise)
  • Dizziness, headache, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or fainting
  • Pain, swelling, and tightness in the leg (caused by bleeding due to the facture of a thighbone)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the bowel movements (which may turn them tarry and black)
  • Vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds
  • Bleeding from the nose, ears, or rectum
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shock

Any signs of internal bleeding after an accident should be considered a medical emergency.  Serious blood loss can cause a victim to go into shock and die.

Treatment for Internal Injuries

Treatment for an internal injury is likely to be expensive, and recovery is likely to be lengthy.

Although the patient may eventually make a full recovery, some internal injuries cause life-long changes.

For example, a damaged spleen may need to be removed.  The spleen filters the blood and helps the body fight germs and infections.  Thus, a person without a spleen is more likely to develop infections and will have to take special precautions, including taking antibiotics and vaccinations, in order to stay healthy.

If you have been in an accident, contact Thompson Law Firm in Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

We provide personal injury legal services to clients in the greater Phoenix area including: Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tempe, Maricopa, Globe, and Queen Creek.


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