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Can a Seatbelt Cause Internal Damage?

While it’s always a good choice to wear a seatbelt while driving or riding in a vehicle, this critical safety feature can also cause serious injuries in an accident. Seatbelts can damage internal organs of the abdomen, an injury collectively known as “seatbelt syndrome.” Here’s what you need to know about the internal damage seatbelts can cause in serious collisions.

What Is Seatbelt Syndrome?

Seatbelts can cause significant internal damage when it compresses the abdomen during a collision. The impact can damage both internal organs and the abdominal wall. Seatbelt syndrome can injure the spine, as well as internal organs including:

  • Bladder
  • Colon
  • Kidneys
  • Small bowels
  • Stomach

Common Seatbelt Syndrome Symptoms

If you’ve been in any car accident—whether major or minor—you should always seek medical attention immediately. Injuries may not present themselves until the days, weeks, or even months after the incident, and early diagnosis and treatment can prevent conditions and symptoms from worsening.

Unfortunately, symptoms of seatbelt syndrome can be hard to detect. You may notice bruising to the abdomen, but it’s hard to determine if internal organs have been damaged until other symptoms manifest. Seek medical care right away if you notice the following symptoms after an accident:

  • Abdominal pain, or pain between the ribs or hips
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Bruising and straining of muscles around the abdomen
  • Bruising or seatbelt marks across the abdomen
  • Changes in bowel movements or urination
  • Dizziness or weakness that could indicate internal organ damage
  • Swelling or discoloration in the midsection that doesn’t disappear in a few days
  • Vomiting or coughing up blood
  • Weakness in the legs

Complications of Seatbelt Syndrome

Since seatbelt syndrome often involves damage to internal organs, the condition can be life-threatening or cause permanent damage if left untreated. Seek medical attention and have a doctor perform a physical. In some cases, your medical provider will order a CT scan or focused abdominal sonography in trauma (FAST). In other cases, more invasive techniques like a laparotomy may be required for the diagnosis of seatbelt syndrome-related injuries.

Since seatbelt-related injuries may not manifest with visible symptoms for several days after a collision, many people delay treatment simply because they don’t know that a problem exists. Any delay can cause complications, including infection and organ failure. It’s critical to seek emergency medical care immediately after an accident—even if you have no symptoms. Only an accident care doctor can determine whether you’re dealing with a seat belt injury that’s merely a bruise, or if your symptoms are a sign of something more serious.

Injured by a Seat Belt in a Car Accident? Seek Compassionate Care From the Dedicated Team at Impact Medical Group

Thousands of people are injured by seat belts in car accidents each year. If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms detailed above, don’t wait to seek medical attention. The caring team at Impact Medical Group of Tampa will perform a full medical examination, diagnosing and treating the problem and supporting your full recovery. Call us today at (813) 283-1910 to schedule your free consultation.