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Chest Pain After Car Accident & Chest Contusion Car Accident

Rapid deceleration can cause blunt force trauma injuries to the chest. These injuries can be serious and life threatening.

The human chest

The human chest comprises of ribs, sternum, clavicle, lungs, chest wall, heart, esophagus, diaphragm and major blood vessels. When a blunt force is applied to the body, it rarely causes damage to only one anatomical component. Often, other components are impacted as well.

st louis car accident chest injuries

Diagnosing blunt trauma chest injuries

There are various diagnostic techniques available to examine the car accident victim in order to determine the nature and severity of blunt force trauma chest injury. Physicians may use one or a combination of the following imaging tests to diagnose the injury:

  • X-rays
  • MRIs
  • CT-scans
  • Ultrasounds
  • Sonograms
  • Surgery

Even if there are no other visible injuries, a medical evaluation is necessary to rule out any chest injuries. If an X-ray shows any signs of injury, a CT scan may be performed. If a driver has sustained blunt force trauma to the front of the chest and he or she has a history of heart disease or is elderly, an EKG may be performed. If the tests are clear and the patient shows no obvious symptoms, he or she may be sent home and should be informed about the possibility of delayed symptoms such as light-headedness, severe chest pain, or breathing problems.

Cardiac Contusion

A blunt force trauma to the chest can cause a cardiac contusion. This injury is a possibility in case of a high-speed collision or rollover accident and is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • fracture of the sternum
  • history of heart disease
  • pain or tenderness over the mid-chest area
  • myocardial infraction

Although quite uncommon, blunt force trauma to the chest can cause myocardial infraction. It can result from a blood clot in a coronary artery or dissection of a coronary artery. The most commonly affected artery is the left anterior descending artery.

Myocardial Rupture

Severe blunt force injury to the heart may cause immediate death. If the patient survives, he or she may experience low blood pressure that can lead to rupture, because any fluids given can increase blood pressure. Common signs of a serious heart injury include muffled heart sounds, distended veins in the neck, and low blood pressure.


If the rib is fractured as a result of a blunt force trauma to the chest, it can lead to pneumothorax. Symptoms include chest pain, low oxygenation, absent breath sounds, and shortness of breath. Not all cases of pneomothorax are evident on X-rays and silent pneumothorax can be seen only on a CT scan.

Pulmonary Contusion

Bruising of the lungs may take up to 24 hours to manifest itself and usually goes away in a week’s time. However, appropriate treatment is necessary to prevent pneumonia and to control pain.

Tracheobronchial Injury

This is a rare condition that affects only about one percent of patients that suffer a blunt force trauma to the chest. Unfortunately, in most cases, it causes immediate death.


Blunt force trauma to the chest can cause aortic rupture, rupture of the heart, or bleeding into the chest space, a condition known as hemothorax. Injury is often hard to diagnose and may not show on an X-ray. It can be seen on ultrasound.

Is Chest Pain After a Car Accident a Medical Emergency?

Chest pain after a car accident could be a sign of a serious medical emergency. If you are having chest injury symptoms, make sure you seek medical attention immediately.

The sooner you get diagnostic tests and treatment, the sooner your doctor will diagnose and treat chest injuries before they turn into potentially life-threatening injuries or lead to disability. 

Seeking prompt medical attention also means early medical documentation. Getting your medical report as soon as possible helps you avoid problems with the insurance company and accelerate the timeline of your compensation claim.

Experiencing chest pain or any discomfort in the chest after an accident is not uncommon for car crash victims. There could be several reasons for chest pain after an auto accident, which, if ignored, can turn out to be a life-threatening issue.

Causes of Chest Pain or Discomfort After a Car Accident

Here are four of the most commonly known reasons car crash victims experience chest pain or discomfort: 

  • Bruised ribs: The seatbelt or airbag may have compressed your chest tightly during the accident, bruising the sternum or ribs. Common signs of bruised ribs are severe pain when breathing or coughing and swelling around the affected area.
  •  Fractured ribs: Another reason that can be triggering your chest pain is fractured ribs. A rib fracture can cause shortness of breath that may result in pleural effusion, also commonly known as “water on the lungs.” A fractured rib can also tear your chest wall, lungs, or blood vessels. If you have a fractured rib, you might feel severe pain around the chest area or sharp and stabbing pain when laughing, coughing, or sneezing.  
  • Internal organ injuries: The impact of a collision can cause life-threatening internal injuries such as lung or heart lacerations. Internal injuries can lead to severe chest pains or internal bleeding. 
  • Muscle strain: Seatbelt or airbag pressure can strain the chest muscles during a crash, resulting in chest pain or discomfort.

Treatment For Chest Injury from Car Accident

Treatment of these injuries depends upon the nature and severity of the injuries. A severe blunt force trauma to the chest can break the bones of the chest. Broken ribs can cause extreme pain and can make breathing difficult. Trauma can also cause bruising of the lungs, which can make breathing difficult and painful. Car accident victims who sustain blunt trauma to the chest can also suffer a broken sternum, which can cause severe secondary problems if it damages the heart or surrounding vessels.

There are other injuries as well that car accident victims can sustain. A pneumothorax or a collapsed lung happens when air escapes from the lungs and enters the chest cavity. It then applies pressure to the lung causing difficulty breathing. A collapsed lung is common after suffering a blunt force trauma to the chest. To treat it, doctors typically insert a tube into the lung to re-inflate the collapsed lung.

Blunt trauma to the chest can also sheer or rupture blood vessels in the chest. This can cause blood to collect in the chest cavity or lungs, a condition known as hemothorax. This can severely affect breathing. In order to restore breathing, the doctors have to eliminate the pooled blood.

If you have been injured in a car crash caused by another person’s negligence, consult a St. Louis car accident attorney for legal advice. Call The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. at (314) 361-4242.
Updated: February 5, 2024