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How Can I Tell If I Have Seat Belt Syndrome?

In many cases, wearing a seat belt while driving or riding in a vehicle is the best choice to reduce the risk of injury and death during an accident. But even so, there is evidence that indicates that seat belt use can cause serious injuries to the internal organs of the abdomen, which is known as seat belt syndrome.

Our car accident care team at Impact Medical Sun City Center explains seat belt syndrome and what you should do if you have been injured by your seat belt during a car crash.

What is Seat Belt Syndrome?

Seat belt syndrome happens when the seat belt compresses the abdomen during a car accident-causing damage to the internal organs and abdominal wall.

Injuries that might be associated with seat belt syndrome include injuries to the:

  • Stomach
  • Small bowels
  • Kidneys
  • Bladder
  • Colon
  • Spine

Symptoms of Seat Belt Syndrome

One of the first symptoms of seat belt syndrome may be bruising to the abdomen alongside abdominal pain. Unfortunately, until other symptoms manifest, it can be hard to detect injury to the internal organs of the abdomen.

If you observe the following symptoms following an accident, you should seek medical care as soon as possible and ask about tests to determine if you have seat belt syndrome.

  • Bruising and muscle strain around the abdominal region
  • Seat belt marks or bruising across the abdomen
  • Muscle strain around the abdomen
  • Sternum pain
  • Swelling or discoloration that does not disappear in a few days
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Dizziness or weakness that could indicate damage to internal organs
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Changes in bowel movements or urination
  • Constipation and bleeding
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain or pain between the ribs or hips

Diagnosing Seat Belt Syndrome

Seat belt syndrome can be very difficult to diagnose as symptoms may not manifest immediately following a car crash.

It is important that you seek medical treatment and have a doctor perform a physical examination if you have any symptoms of abdominal injuries.

CT scans and focused abdominal sonography in trauma (FAST) are usually required to diagnose trauma and damage to the internal organs. And in some cases, invasive techniques such as laparotomy (abdominal surgery) may be required to diagnose the injuries that are associated with seat belt syndrome.

Complications of Seat Belt Syndrome

If left untreated, the injuries from a seat belt could become life-threatening or cause permanent impairments or disability.

Because seat belt syndrome injuries may not manifest with visible symptoms for days after the accident, treatment is often delayed. This delay in treatment can cause complications including organ failure and infection.

Seek Medical Treatment Immediately

Following any kind of accident, it is important to seek emergency medical care. This is true even if you don’t have symptoms or do not think that you have suffered a serious injury.

Remember, accident care doctors are trained to know whether your seat belt injury is a bruise or the signs of something more serious.

Further, to use your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits you must seek medical care within 14 days of an accident, or you will forfeit the compensation that you are entitled to.

Compassionate After Accident Care

If you have been in a car accident and are suffering from the symptoms of seat belt syndrome, don’t wait. Come visit our car accident clinic at Impact Medical Sun City Center for a medical examination ASAP.

Our team of experienced doctors is ready to help you on your road to healing. Call Impact Medical Sun City Center to schedule an appointment today; (813) 938-5195!