What is a Bruised Lung?
A bruised lung can develop after receiving a blow to the chest. During a blow to the chest, the blunt impact can cause damage to the blood vessels, leading to fluid and blood buildup in the lungs. Too much fluid buildup in the lungs can decrease the amount of oxygen the body receives. One of the most common injuries to the lung in people who experience a blow or blunt trauma to the chest is a pulmonary contusion.
Due to this, a bruised lung is also known as a pulmonary contusion. If a bruised lung is left untreated, it can lead to fatal consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about having a bruised lung.
What are the Causes of a Bruised Lung (Pulmonary Contusion)?
A bruised lung is usually the result of a blow to the chest. A blunt impact or blunt trauma to the chest can lead to damage to the blood vessels, which leads to fluid and blood build up in the lungs. Too much build-up of fluid in the lungs can dramatically reduce the amount of oxygen the body receives.(1)
Since a pulmonary contusion is one of the most common injuries caused to the lung in people who experience a blow to the chest, a bruised lung is, therefore also often referred to as a pulmonary contusion.
If a bruised lung is not treated promptly, it can prove to be life-threatening.
Most bruised lungs are caused by direct trauma or blow to the chest. Falls and car accidents are the number one cause of lung bruising, along with physical assaults and sports injuries. While most cases of lung bruising are usually mild, but the risk of developing some serious complications from a pulmonary contusion is when more than 20 percent of the lung gets injured.(2)
Serious complications can develop from bruised lungs, including:
- Deep lung infections
- Respiratory infections
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)(3)
These conditions are mostly also accompanied by low levels of oxygen.
Depending on just how much lung tissue has been bruised, it can take days or even weeks for the lungs to heal. If the initial pain does not get better after the first couple of days, then it is necessary to visit your doctor to discuss further treatment.
Symptoms of a Bruised Lung
A bruised lung usually does not show too many signs in the beginning. Pain is, of course, the biggest indication of a pulmonary contusion. If the pain does not improve or starts getting worse after three days of the injury, or if the pain is accompanied by shortness of breath, then you must seek immediate medical attention.(4)
Symptoms that indicate you have developed a Bruised Lung or Pulmonary Contusion include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Pain while breathing
- Low energy levels
- Increased heart rate
Signs and symptoms that indicate a severe complication from a Bruised Lung or Pulmonary Contusion include:
- Crackling sound in the chest
- Wheezing sound while breathing
- Cyanosis, or the development of blue-tinged skin from the lack of oxygen
- Fast or shallow breathing
- Clammy or cool skin
- Low blood pressure
- Coughing up blood, or hemoptysis
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should immediately seek medical assistance.
Blunt trauma to the chest can lead to bruising of your lungs and also cause several other problems. Some common injuries may also occur alongside a bruised lung, such as:
- Injuries to abdominal organs
- Collapsed lung, a condition known as pneumothorax
- Blood in the chest cavity, a condition known as hemothorax
- Lung tear or laceration
- Broken ribs
- Broken bones of the spinal cord
How To Treat A Bruised Lung?
Treatment for a pulmonary contusion depends on the severity of the injury. Doctors will first check your symptoms and will prescribe several tests to determine how much fluid (if any) build-up is there in the lungs. These diagnostic tests are also used to determine if there are any other injuries alongside a pulmonary contusion.
Some of the tests doctors commonly used for checking the severity of your injuries include:
The primary goal of treating a bruised lung is to increase the oxygen flow to the lungs and also to decrease pain. Treating a bruised lung requires time as the lung tissue has to heal. There is no specified treatment or medication at present to speed up the healing of a pulmonary contusion.
Doctors will commonly recommend oxygen therapy to help you breathe easier. If you are not able to breathe by yourself, then you might be put on a ventilator to help your lungs breathe properly.
Your doctor is also going to prescribe certain medications for reducing the pain and bruising to your lungs. If there is fluid built up in your lungs, then you will need to undergo a variety of treatments, including breathing support like CPAP or BiPAP, to help boost the flow of oxygen to the lungs.
Once you are back home, your doctor will recommend that you practice some deep breathing exercises to improve the airflow to the lungs and to also help speed up the recovery process.(5)
An intense blunt trauma or blow to the chest or even a sudden impact to the chest can lead to a bruised lung, known as a pulmonary contusion. Injury and pain can range from being moderate to severe. If you are also experiencing difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, then you should seek immediate medical help. Any type of significant trauma to your chest, such as a fall or car accident, should be evaluated by a doctor to assess the severity of your injuries. If a bruised lung is left untreated, then it may lead to life-threatening complications. This is why it is so important to consult a doctor after getting hurt in the chest area.
- Cohn, S.M., 1997. Pulmonary contusion: review of the clinical entity. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 42(5), pp.973-979.
- Mahmood, I., El-Menyar, A., Younis, B., Ahmed, K., Nabir, S., Ahmed, M.N., Al-Yahri, O., Mahmood, S., Consunji, R. and Al-Thani, H., 2017.
- Clinical significance and prognostic implications of quantifying pulmonary contusion volume in patients with blunt chest trauma. Medical science monitor: international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 23, p.3641.
- Miller, P.R., Croce, M.A., Bee, T.K., Qaisi, W.G., Smith, C.P., Collins, G.L. and Fabian, T.C., 2001. ARDS after pulmonary contusion: accurate measurement of contusion volume identifies high-risk patients. Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 51(2), pp.223-230.
- Allen, G.S. and Coates, N.E., 1996. Pulmonary contusion: a collective review. The American surgeon, 62(11), pp.895-900.
- Clark, G.C., Schecter, W.P. and Trunkey, D.D., 1988. Variables affecting outcome in blunt chest trauma: flail chest vs. pulmonary contusion. The Journal of trauma, 28(3), pp.298-304.