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Pulmonary Contusion

By

Thomas G. Weiser

, MD, MPH, Stanford University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Apr 2022| Content last modified Apr 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION

A pulmonary contusion is a bruise of a lung, which causes bleeding and swelling.

  • People have pain, usually due to the chest wall injury, and often feel short of breath.

  • Doctors make the diagnosis with a chest x-ray.

  • Treatment is with oxygen and sometimes a ventilator to support breathing until the bruise heals.

A severe blow to the chest (as from a motor vehicle crash or fall) can bruise the lung. The bruised lung does not absorb oxygen properly. A large bruise can cause dangerously low levels of oxygen in the bloodstream. A severe pulmonary contusion is potentially life threatening.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Contusion

Pain and shortness of breath are the main symptoms. The pain is usually caused by injury to the chest wall (the ribs and chest muscle). Breathing is painful and difficult.

People may have no symptoms, especially at first. Shortness of breath may develop and worsen over several hours.

Diagnosis of Pulmonary Contusion

  • Chest x-ray

Doctors suspect a pulmonary contusion when people become short of breath after a chest injury, especially if shortness of breath develops gradually.

A chest x-ray X-Rays of the Chest Anyone thought to have a heart disorder has chest x-rays taken from the front and the side. Typically, the person is standing upright, but chest x-rays can be done with people lying in bed if... read more X-Rays of the Chest is taken. However, because a contusion may develop gradually, doctors may take more than one x-ray over a period of many hours or do a CT to detect a contusion.

Doctors also measure the amount of oxygen in the blood by attaching a device to a finger or toe (pulse oximeter). This information can help doctors determine how well the lungs are functioning.

Treatment of Pulmonary Contusion

  • Analgesics and oxygen therapy

People are usually given pain relievers (analgesics) to lessen pain and thus help them breathe more easily.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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