Crush injuries result when certain parts of the body are subjected to a high
degree of pressure or force, usually when the body is squeezed between two immobile or heavy objects. Damaged caused by injuries include bleeding, bruising, fracture, laceration, secondary infection, nerve injury, wounds, and/or compartment syndrome (increased pressure in a leg or arm leading to severe nerve, muscle, tissue or blood vessel damage).
Crush injuries result from many different situations that include occupational injuries, motor vehicle accidents, mining accidents and other industrial accidents. For crush injury syndrome to occur, it must involve a large area, such as the entire arm or thigh, and blood circulation towards the area has been obstructed. Moreover, the force or pressure applied must be present for some time before crush injury syndrome can occur. However, not all crush injuries actually progress into crush injury syndrome.
First aid for crush injuries
Initiate basic first aid procedures (register for training here). Quickly survey the scene and look for possible dangers. Ensure your personal safety and that of the casualty. Call 911 or your local services and ask for help.
Assess the condition of the victim. If it safe to remove the crushing force, do so. Keep the victim comfortable and continuously monitor condition. In the past, tourniquet was frequently used for crush injuries but it is not recommended. The victim may appear conscious and alert; however their condition can deteriorate quickly, so be sure to monitor victim closely while waiting for emergency services to arrive.
Crush Injury Syndrome
In case of a crush injury and pressure is not released immediately, such as when the body part is trapped, the severed body part may progress into crush injury syndrome.
Crush injury syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition. In this condition, toxins produced by the body are trapped by the compressive item. Removing the pressure can cause the sudden release of toxins into the system potentially overwhelming the kidneys – the organs mainly responsible for clearing body toxins. Crush injury syndrome may develop within one hour after a severe crush injury, but normally takes around 4 hours.
In addition, releasing the compressing pressure or force can cause fluid to leak into the injured area, resulting in shock. If not properly treated, both crush injury syndrome and shock can lead to fatal consequences. Therefore, it is recommended that experts remove the compressive item. Ideally, the casualty is given fluids and medications by rescue services before removing the compressing force.
Preventing Crush Injury Syndrome
Crush injury syndrome can actually be prevented if persons suffering from crushing injuries are provided with proper first aid immediately. Here are two important things to remember when caring for victims of crush injury:
- If the body part of the victim has been trapped for LESS THAN 10 MINUTES and you can safely remove the compressive object, carefully remove the object and provide first aid for injuries sustained.
- If the body part of the victim has been trapped for LONGER THAN 10 MINUTES, call for emergency services and explain the situation. DO NOT attempt to release the pressure or remove the object. Keep the victim warm and comfortable. Provide reassurance while waiting for rescue services.
To learn more about recognizing and helping victims of crush injuries enrol in workplace approved first aid training (more information).