Thoracic Injury

Thoracic Injury

Anatomists divide the human body into four main pieces: the head, the thorax, the abdomen, and the limbs. Your thorax sits between your head and your abdomen and excludes your arms.

The thorax includes several large muscle groups that you need to support your weight and move your body. Your thorax also includes your thoracic cavity. This cavity contains your vital organs like your heart and your lungs, as well as a large segment of your spinal cord. 

Here are some facts to know when you suffer a thoracic injury.

What Is the Human Thorax?

What Is the Human Thorax?

You might remember the word “thorax” from school. In an insect, the thorax is the middle body segment between the head and abdomen.

Humans do not have body segments. Instead, the abdomen and thorax sit together in the torso.

But inside, the diaphragm separates the abdomen and thorax. The diaphragm muscle forms the floor of your thorax. It helps you breathe by expanding and contracting your thoracic cavity.

As the thoracic cavity expands, negative pressure around your lungs allows them to fill with air. When it contracts, positive pressure forces the air out of your lungs.

The Thoracic Cavity

The thoracic cavity also contains your heart and major blood vessels. The major arteries, like the aorta, carry oxygenated blood from your heart to your body. There, the blood cells drop off the oxygen for cell metabolism and pick up waste products like carbon dioxide.

The major veins, like the superior vena cava, carry oxygen-poor blood from the body back to the heart. There, the pulmonary artery carries the blood to the lungs, where the blood cells can drop off carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen. This cycle repeats itself continuously throughout your life.

The thoracic cavity also contains several connections for organs in your head and abdomen. Your esophagus passes through your thorax as it travels from your throat to your stomach. Several lymph vessels and your thymus sit in your thorax.

The Thoracic Wall

The thoracic wall surrounds the thoracic cavity. The thoracic wall includes bones like the ribs, breast bone, spine, and shoulder blades, which are held together by ligaments.

Several large muscle groups cover these bones to support your body weight. They also provide the strength and flexibility to bend and twist your body. Tendons anchor these muscles to your skeleton.

Your spinal cord passes through the back of your thoracic wall inside your spine. The spinal cord connects your brain to your body. It carries control signals from your brain to move your muscles and regulate your organs. It also carries sensory signals, like touch, temperature, and texture, from your body back to your brain.

How Does a Thoracic Injury Happen?

Thoracic injuries usually happen in one of three ways:

Blunt Force Injuries

Blunt force injuries happen when a force strikes your thorax without penetrating your thoracic wall. Blunt force injuries commonly occur due to falls, seat belt impacts during car accidents, and falling objects.

Blunt forces can stretch or tear muscles and tendons. They can also break bones. In the thorax, a broken bone can puncture an organ or tear other vital tissue such as the spinal cord or a major blood vessel.

Penetrating Injuries

A penetrating injury happens when a foreign object pierces the thoracic wall. This can damage the air-tight cavity you need to breathe. The object can also perforate a vital organ, nerve, or blood vessel.

Blast Injuries

Your lungs contain air. Explosions create a pressure wave. When you get hit by the pressure wave, it compresses your chest. The air in your lungs gets squeezed and can cause ruptures, similar to squeezing a balloon.

Doctors see blast lung most commonly in combat veterans. But it can also happen in workplace accidents involving miners, oil and gas workers, construction workers, and demolition workers who work around explosive materials.

What Are Some Examples of Thoracic Injuries?

Thoracic injuries can take many different forms. 

Injuries to the thoracic wall include:

  • Muscle or tendon strains
  • Ligament sprains
  • Dislocated ribs
  • Fractured ribs

Injuries to the musculoskeletal system in the thorax can produce pain and swelling. It can also limit your range of motion. In most cases, a musculoskeletal injury will heal in about two months.

Injuries to the organs and structures inside the thoracic cavity are often much more severe. These injuries can cause permanent disabilities or even kill you. Some examples of these injuries include:

Collapsed Lung

Your lungs sit in an airtight chamber called the pleural space. When your chest expands, the negative pressure on the lungs allows them to fill with air.

A collapsed lung happens when the pleural space fills with air or liquid that presses on the lungs. This pressure prevents the lungs from filling with air when you inhale. As a result, you struggle to breathe, and your oxygen levels drop.

Pneumothorax happens when a penetrating injury allows air to fill the pleural space and collapse the lung. Hemothorax occurs when blood in the pleural space collapses your lung. Both conditions can cause death without emergency treatment.

Cardiac Tamponade

A sac called the pericardium surrounds your heart. This sac protects your heart from infection. It also prevents your heart from bumping against any other organs and wearing out.

A thoracic injury can cause fluid to accumulate inside the pericardium. The fluid strangles your heart and can cause heart arrhythmia and death without treatment.

Ruptured Aorta

The aorta carries all of the blood coming out of the heart. If the aorta ruptures due to blunt force or penetrating trauma, you can bleed to death within minutes.

What Compensation Is Available for a Thoracic Injury?

If another party negligently caused your thoracic injury, you may have the right to seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. This compensation could cover your economic damages such as medical bills and lost income. Thoracic injuries can range from inconvenient to life-threatening. If you faced a life-threatening thoracic injury, you could seek substantial compensation.

Your compensation could also include non-economic damages, which cover all of the ways your injury diminished your quality of life. If your injury causes pain and mental anguish or prevents you from performing necessary daily activities, you could have a claim for substantial non-economic damages.

Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer For Help After a Thoracic Injury

If you’ve suffered a thoracic injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to substantial compensation to cover your damages. To discuss the damages you can seek for your thoracic injury, contact Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation with a Houston personal injury lawyer.