Many people don’t associate heart ailments with car crashes. However, at least one particular type of condition can be the direct result of a crash. It’s called a myocardial contusion or sometimes a cardiac contusion. It’s basically a bruised heart muscle.
This type of blunt cardiac injury can result from a crash, fall or sports injury where the chest strikes something hard — or vice versa. It’s sometimes seen in people who suffer a fractured sternum (breastbone), which is located in the middle of the chest.
Signs of a myocardial contusion
A myocardial contusion can be relatively mild and heal fairly quickly, or it can be more serious. If you’ve suffered a serious myocardial contusion, you may experience symptoms similar to a heart attack, including shortness of breath, upset stomach, lightheadedness, heart palpitations and of course chest pain.
If you’re feeling any kind of chest or heart pain after a crash (whether you have any external bruises and cuts or not), it’s crucial to seek medical help immediately. Tests can confirm whether you’ve suffered this injury (or others). A blood test as well as imaging tests can detect a myocardial contusion. If not diagnosed and treated quickly, a myocardial contusion could result in heart failure and even potentially be fatal.
Cardiac contusions in car crashes aren’t as common as they used to be thanks to airbags and seatbelts. However, not all vehicles on the road today have airbags to protect every passenger (or even drivers).
Recovery time and long-term effects vary
Many people recover from myocardial contusions within weeks. For others, it can take longer, and they can potentially have long-term or permanent heart damage. There’s no way to know for certain in the early days after a crash.
Whatever your injuries, it’s important not to agree to a settlement with an at-fault driver or their insurance company until you know the full extent and effect of the injuries. Having legal guidance can help you ensure that you don’t settle for less than you deserve.