Crush injuries occur when a part of the body, like a hand, arm, leg, foot or trunk is squashed. Often there is little damage on the outside, hiding the damage that has occurred on the inside.
Crush injuries are common on farms, particularly on the hands. The most serious cases occur in agriculture where heavy machinery is used and people become trapped under them or in them.
Crush injuries can happen:
• In tractor rollovers
• While using heavy equipment
• When moving large hay or wool bales
• While dealing with animals in yards or small spaces
• During logging or cutting firewood
• While moving farm equipment.
Crush injuries can cause compartment syndrome or crush injury syndrome which can both have serious consequences.
Compartment syndrome can occur when muscles inside a ‘compartment’ of a limb swell so much that blood flow is blocked. The fascia, which covers the muscles, is not very elastic and does not stretch, forcing the pressure from the swelling inwards, compressing nerves and blood vessels. It can be caused by many things including being crushed under a heavy object.
Crush injury syndrome
Crush injury syndrome occurs when a large area of muscle is compressed and starved of blood flow over a several hours. This causes the muscle cells to break down, releasing acids and other chemicals. When the pressure is removed these chemicals are released and can cause serious damage as they travel to the heart and kidneys.
First aid requires careful assessment. If the area has been compressed for a long time it may be best to wait for emergency services to arrive, or seek advice when you call Triple zero (000), before removing the crushing weight, as a tourniquet or intravenous fluids may be needed before the weight is released.