Disclaimer: The following neither contains medical or legal advice but is for Informational Purposes Only. Consult a medical professional or attorney for your unique situation.
After a car accident, many people don’t seek medical attention thinking that they don’t have any injuries. However, they may realize after few days or weeks that they actually suffered injury. It is important to check yourself right after an accident for any sign or symptom of injury. If you have pain, deformity, bruises, skin excoriations, blurry vision, headache, etc., call an ambulance. Also, if you have doubts regarding possible injuries it is always better to call an ambulance as a precaution than to wait until symptoms become more severe.
Once the ambulance comes to a car accident scene, they will check you for injuries and if they find any indication you will be sent to the nearest emergency room. There, you will need to state that you were involved in a car accident and report all the symptoms you have so that the attending doctor will have complete insight of the severity of your injuries. The following protocol will depend on the injured area. For example, you won’t get the same examination or diagnostic studies if you suffered a head injury or knee injury.
In case of a head injury, you will probably need a CT scan in order to determine whether there is brain injury or bleeding inside the brain. On the other hand, most patients with limb injuries will be examined and X-rays will be enough to rule out fractures and dislocations. The same goes with spine injuries, such as whiplash or low back strains. If your doctor suspects a more severe injury, you will need a CT scan or MRI in order to diagnose it.
Once you are diagnosed, you will be treated. Less severe injuries will be treated in the ER or you will be referred to specialists like an orthopedic surgeon, general surgeon, neurologist, etc., for further treatment.
Less severely injured patients will be sent home with pain killers and advice to rest and to expect that their symptoms will improve after a short period of time. However, not all people will fully recover, or their symptoms will last for a longer period of time. Also, some may experience new symptoms during that time. It is very important to visit your doctor if you have new symptoms, if your pain level increases, or if your symptoms last too long.
Depending on your symptoms you might need to consult different specialists or medical professionals.
A lot of people have pain located in the neck or back, with or without radiation, numbness, or tingling after car accidents. Some people react well to periods of rest, pain killers, and/or muscle relaxants. But there are others that experience symptoms for a longer period of time. In that case, you might need an additional examination performed by an orthopedic surgeon in order to rule out more severe injury. You will also probably need to get additional, more sophisticated diagnostic studies, such as CT or MRI. If there are no indications for emergent surgical treatment, you will be referred to physical therapy. After examinations are performed by a physical therapy specialist, you will most likely need a number of different treatments in order to reduce your symptoms. Physical therapy treatment can last for a longer period of time, but it is a great treatment option for spine injuries after car accidents.1
In case of spine derangement after a car accident, chiropractic treatment might provide good results. Your chiropractor will use spinal manipulation during a series of treatments in order to rearrange your spine to normal pre-injury position.
Another valuable treatment option for spine injuries is acupuncture, which is based on precisely placed needles in order to reduce pain and muscle spasm.2
Some patients might experience dizziness or vertigo after a car accident. It can be caused by a blow to the head or it can be unrelated to head injury. In the case of head injury, a CT scan can be done to verify possible injuries. The dizziness can be short-term and last for a very brief period of time after the accident, and you may not experience it again. However, there are some cases when dizziness is persistent or so severe that is has a significant effect on normal life activities. If you have vertigo, you will need a thorough examination performed by neurologist and ENT in order to find the exact cause and to treat it.3
Head injuries are common in car accidents and the severity varies from lacerations and contusions to brain contusion, brain hemorrhage, or coma. Most patients with less severe injuries will be treated in the ER and discharged home. More serious injuries will require a hospital stay and in some cases surgery. Patients with more severe head injury will need a number of follow-up examinations and control CT scans or MRI. If you suffered a head injury in a car accident and suddenly start having headaches, then you should visit your doctor and probably a neurologist or neurosurgeon in order to determine whether it is accident related.4
Skin lacerations in car accidents might seem like a minor injury. However, they can cause severe issues and consequences. If your laceration is deep or big in size, you might need sutures and follow-up examinations to check the wound or to remove the stitches. In some cases, wound infection can occur and it prolongs wound healing and the number of examinations. Also, wounds on visible body parts such as the face, arms, and hands can cause significant scarring which can be improved by scar revision surgeries performed by a plastic surgeon or laser treatments.5
Limbs are also very commonly injured in car accidents. Less severe injuries resolve with rest, ice, compression, elevation, and pain killers. Some more severe injuries like fractures require periods of immobilization or even surgery. After injury of an extremity, you might need an examination performed by an orthopedic surgeon in order to determine the best course of action. If you continue to having pain in an extremity even after negative X-rays, you might need second X-rays or even a CT scan or MRI in order to determine the exact cause of symptoms.6,7
Generally speaking, the emergency room is not the last stop on your treatment plan. If you suffered an injury in a car accident, it is more likely that you will need a number of consultations and examinations in order to restore your health.
- “MRI And Low Back Pain: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.gov. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- “Car Accident Treatment | Spine And Injury Clinic Of Laramie.” Spineandinjuryclinic.com. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- Endo, Kenji et al. “Cervical Vertigo And Dizziness After Whiplash Injury.” European Spine Journal 15.6 (2006): 886-890. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- “Neuroimaging In Traumatic Brain Imaging.” NeuroRX 2.2 (2005): 372-383. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- “Wounds And Injuries | Fracture | Bruises | Medlineplus .” Medlineplus.gov. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- “Need A Knee MRI? Here’S What You Can Expect.” WebMD. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.
- ” Pattern Of Injury In Motor Vehicle Accidents .” Worldwidewounds.com. N. p., 2019. Web. 1 Dec. 2019.