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Question:

Are my symptoms a result of my car accident and air bag?  Will they resolve?

I was in a car accident in August and got hit in the chest pretty hard by the airbag. Since then I have had shortness of breath, occasional lightheadedness, elevated diastolic pressure, and a sore chest. I had an echo in Sept that showed I had abnormal diastolic function, mild pulmonary HTN, mild mitral and tricuspid regurgitation, right and left ventricles were normal size. I am wondering if this can all be related to the trauma from the accident and will resolve, or if I need to get a referral to a cardiologist for a more long term issue? I have read about pulmonary HTN and am a little concerned.   

submitted by Kelly from Nebraska on 11/1/2011

Answer:

by Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Raymond F. Stainback, MD    

Raymond F. Stainback, MDRapid deceleration injuries (such as hitting a steering wheel in a car or falling off of a ladder onto your back) can cause severe cardiac injury due to tearing of the cardiac valves or the aorta at a site of attachment to the pulmonary artery up high in the chest. Sometimes actual bruising or mild injury to the heart muscle can occur and occasionally, post-traumatic pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart) can occur. Fortunately, these serious cardiovascular injuries do NOT happen in the majority of cases. However, they are certainly worth consideration after a serious chest injury,  particularly if there are symptoms.  Any traumatic valve abnormality would usually not be described as "mild." The small leaks were likely pre-existing. The same can be said for mild pulmonary hypertension and diastolic dysfunction. Because of the air bag trauma,  there is likely musculoskeletal bruising and soreness that will take time to improve. However, if there is constant or worsening chest pain or shortness of breath, do not hesitate to seek follow-up evaluation immediately. From the tone of your question it sounds as if you are more concerned about follow-up of the conditions identified and it would be reasonable to do that at some point.  

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Updated November 2011
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