Anytime a person is trapped for a length of time, there’s a potential for crush syndrome. Crush syndrome is relatively rare, and it’s most often a result of catastrophic natural disasters or severe car or truck accidents. It occurs when the patient is trapped for a significant length of time under a crushing weight. If the time exceeds four hours, then this is considered significant.
People who do not receive medical treatment when the weight is removed could suffer from three life-threatening conditions. The first is hypovolemia, the second is renal failure and the third is the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
Whenever a person’s body is compressed for an extended period of time, crush syndrome should be expected. If the body’s lower extremities, upper thoracic region, arms or buttocks are compressed, then crush syndrome is more likely to occur. When parts of the body are compressed, the pressure decreases circulation in those areas. The oxygen required in the cells no longer reaches them, changing how they work. The altered process is called an anaerobic metabolism, or a metabolism without oxygen. It creates a large amount of lactic acid, and the cells become more permeable, leaking their contents.
As the cells continue to leak and others die, the contents begin to dump into the surrounding tissues. The contents can be toxic, leading to severe problems for the patient. Typically, the effects are isolated to the area involved, but rescuers must treat the patient before the rescue to prevent crush syndrome from taking place. Once the patient is freed, the blood flow returns to the cells, but the contents are spread throughout the body. That means that the toxic substances can begin spreading quickly, and if not in check, can cause serious symptoms such as cardiac arrest, renal failure or respiratory distress.
If you’ve been in a crushing accident and suffered from this syndrome as a result, it could take some time to heal properly. Workers’ compensation should cover your needs until you can return to work, and if you can’t, then it should help you replace your lost wages.
Source: EMS1.com, “4 things EMS providers must know about crush syndrome,” Jim Sideras, accessed Nov. 10, 2016