This guide discusses stomach pain after a car accident. Technically, the stomach is an organ on the upper left side of the abdomen. But many people complaining of stomach pain use the term more broadly to include the entire abdomen. So, for the purposes of this guide, we will too.
Topics include seat belt injury symptoms, seat belt injury to the abdomen, internal bleeding from a car accident, and organ damage. If you are experiencing any of the problems in this guide, you should get evaluated by a medical doctor Immediately.
SEAT BELT INJURY ABDOMEN
The number one cause of stomach pain after a car accident is something called seat belt syndrome. Seat belts save lives. But they also cause their own set of internal injuries. This happens when the force of impact throws the body forward. The seat belt prevents the body from slamming into the inside of the automobile. But all that force is absorbed by the body parts that are abruptly stopped by the seat belt. It’s called blunt force trauma. The end result can be seat belt injury to the abdomen.
The abdomen is the hollow cavity in the body that runs from the ribs to the pelvis. It contains many important organs of the body. It also contains blood vessels that supply these organs with oxygen. Blunt force trauma from a car accident can damage the blood supply to and from these organs causing internal bleeding. It can also damage the abdominal organs themselves. Many of those organs are pictured below.
SEAT BELT INJURY SYMPTOMS
Stomach injury from seat belt syndrome often results in a set of common symptoms. These symptoms can also be signs of internal bleeding after a car accident. They include:
- Deep purple or blackish bruising of the stomach
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distention (your stomach is swollen or sticking out)
- Stomach ache or stomach hurts
- Hard or rigid stomach
- Blood in the urine
- Blood pressure changes
- Temperature changes
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cold clammy skin
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you may have internal injuries. So, it is important to have a doctor check you out right away.
Internal bleeding into the abdomen, also called intra-abdominal bleeding, happens when any of the blood vessels that supply the organs of the body tear, brake, or rupture. This is usually a dangerous and life-threatening injury. If the damage to the blood vessel is severe, large amounts of blood can poor into the abdomen rather quickly. Without immediate diagnosis and treatment, the person can bleed out. With this type of injury, the person is rushed to surgery where a skilled surgeon can repair the damaged blood vessel.
Sometimes times blood vessels only have a little bit of damage. When this happens, only a small bit of blood drips out over time. Its like a leaky faucet. The drip is small but over time the amount of blood builds up in the abdomen. In addition, lack of blood flow to vital organs can also cause severe damage. When this happens, the person may not experience any symptoms at first. Over time, with nowhere to go, the blood inside the abdomen becomes infected. Peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining of the inner abdominal wall, sets in. At this point the infection can travel throughout the entire body. It’s called sepsis and its deadly if antibiotics and surgery to clear out the infection and repair the leaking blood vessel does not occur in time. Fortunately, this type of injury can often be diagnosed by MRI and blood tests before it gets out of hand.
Blunt force trauma or penetrating trauma from a car accident can cause intra-abdominal organ damage. The following organs are the ones that are most likely to be injured, tear, perforate, or puncture:
- Intestines: The shearing forces in the lower abdomen due to the seat belt restraining the vehicle occupant along with the rapid deceleration causes extreme pressure in the bowels. The end result is blowout perforations (holes) to both the small bowel and large bowel. It can also cause mesenteric tears. The mesentery is tissue that suspends the bowels and holds holds them away from the abdominal wall. Although the bowel injury happens immediately, the symptoms are usually delayed. As bowel content spills out into the abdominal cavity, peritonitis and infection starts. The symptoms start when the infection becomes severe. If left untreated, infection turns to sepsis and ultimately death. On the other hand, if these injuries are diagnosed early enough, they are for the most part easily treated with antibiotics and surgical repair. The surgery is called a laparotomy.
- Spleen: The spleen is located under the left side of the rib cage. Its part of the lymphatic system and helps keep bodily fluids balanced. Sometimes a traumatized spleen will heal on its own over time. A severe rupture, however, will require surgery. Sometimes the spleen can be repaired during surgery. Other times it must be either partially or totally removed. Fortunately, a person can live without their spleen. Although removal can lead to a compromised immune system and the possibility of life-threatening infections.
- Liver: The liver is located on the lower right side of the abdomen. It filters the blood and eliminates toxins, makes chemicals used during digestion, and makes proteins needed for blood clotting. Unlike the spleen, the liver is a necessary organ. Without it, life is not possible. Some liver injuries will heal on their own. Others require surgery to repair. Unfortunately, if the organ cannot be repaired, the person will die.
- Kidneys: There are two kidneys. They are just below the ribs on either side of the spine. These fist size organs filter the blood of toxins. Car accidents are responsible for the largest number of blunt force traumas to the kidneys. Most kidney trauma can be treated without surgery. However sometimes surgery is necessary to either repair or remove a kidney. Fortunately, the body only needs one kidney to survive.
- Pancreas: The pancreas helps with digestion and regulates blood sugar. Trauma to the pancreas is rare but it does occur. When it happens, treatment includes waiting to see if it will heal on its own and in more severe cases surgical repair. Although a person can live if the pancreas must be removed, it is not recommended. In addition to lifelong insulin injections, side effects include nausea, vomiting, and heartburn when eating.
- Stomach: The stomach is the small organ at the base of the esophagus that starts the digestive process. It is rarely injured in a car accident. But when it happens it has the highest mortality rate of all abdominal organ injuries. It is often referred to as gastric perforation.
- Bladder: The bladder holds urine until it is excreted. It is located at the base of the pelvis near the genitals. It’s another organ that is rarely injured in car accidents. When it happens, surgical repair may be necessary.
CONSULTING AN INJURY LAWYER
If the car accident was not your fault, you may want to hold the responsible party accountable for your damages. If so, get the medical attention you need first. Then call the best lawyer you can find that is skilled in handling car accident cases.