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J Med Case Rep. 2008 Mar 24;2:91. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-2-91.

Airbag-related chest wall burn as a marker of underlying injury: a case report.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, UK. sjwmonkhouse@hotmail.com

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

This case of a man who sustained an airbag-induced thoracic injury and burn, highlights the potential harm that can be caused by airbags. It also serves to illustrate that a surface burn which looks small and benign can actually be a surface marker of a more serious injury. Staff working in emergency departments need to be aware of the risk of possible airbag-associated injuries.

CASE PRESENTATION:

A 65-year-old man was the driver in a frontal collision. He was wearing a seatbelt. The airbag was activated and caused a superficial chest wall burn. Initial chest x-rays were unremarkable but following deterioration in his condition, a computed tomography scan revealed a serious sternal fracture. The location of the fracture was marked on the surface by the burn.

CONCLUSION:

Airbags can cause significant chest wall injuries and burns. Surface burns at the point of impact should not be dismissed as trivial as the forces involved can cause significant injury. We recommend that all people with chest wall injuries and/or burns due to airbags should have more detailed chest imaging as initial emergency radiographs can be falsely reassuring.

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