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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Definition

A pulmonary contusion is a bruise -like injury to the lungs. Early treatment can improve outcomes and avoid complications, such as a collapsed lung.

The Lungs (cut-away view)
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

This problem is caused by a direct blow or trauma from:

  • Falls
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Gunshot wounds

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Playing contact sports
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Health problems that may cause falls
  • Being around violence
  • Side effects from medicines, such as blood thinners

Symptoms

Problems may not start until 24 to 48 hours after the injury. A person may have chest pain and problems breathing.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how your injury happened. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done to look for signs of internal bleeding.

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

Treatment

Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury and other injuries you may also have. Emergency care may be needed.

The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve breathing. Options are:

  • Medicine to ease pain
  • 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

Prevention

It is hard to prevent problems that happen due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent injuries from falls. Other things that may help lower the risk of this problem are:

  • Wearing appropriate safety equipment when playing contact sports
  • Wearing a seatbelt when in a motor vehicle

RESOURCES

American College of Chest Physicians  http://www.chestnet.org 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  http://familydoctor.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

Trauma Association of Canada  http://www.traumacanada.org 

References

Pulmonary contusion. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/thoracic-trauma/pulmonary-contusion. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Pulmonary contusion. Radiopaedia.org website. Available at: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/pulmonary-contusion. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Pulmonary contusion. University of Connecticut—Korey Stringer Institute website. Available at: http://ksi.uconn.edu/emergency-conditions/internal-trauma/pulmonary-contusion. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Pulmonary contusion—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/pulmonary-contusion-emergency-management. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 08/20/2021