In approximately 2.5-15% of all burn related incidents, inhalation injuries will occur. Even if there’s no burn, an inhalation injury can still occur simply by inhalant exposure that could cause a burn injury. The following are some of the general symptoms of an inhalation injury.
Low Oxygen, Hypoxia
Dry or Thickened Mucus, Inspissated Secretions
Excessive Mucus Secretions, Reactive Bronchorrhea
Contraction of Bronchi Muscles, Bronchospasm
Contraction of Muscles in the Bronchi, Plugging
There were many different agents which encompass an inhalation injury and are responsible for the injury. The injury types are divided between local injuries which are caused by steam or toxins, and does that are caused by carbon monoxide or other asphyxiates.
Chemical Inhalation Injuries
Injuries related to chemical inhalation are both completely dependent and highly varied based upon the:
Overall Length of Exposure
Chemical Toxin and Hailed
Additionally, particle size and hailed also have a big effect on this type of injury. Large particles inhaled will remain in the major airways, while small particles which can easily diffuse well move into a smaller airways. Although both particle sizes can produce severely negative effects, it’s small particles that can potentially cause much more severe damage due to their movement.
The cause of the damage isn’t directly caused by the particles themselves, but rather the toxic chemicals that are produced by the fire that can then dissolve into water and onto the particle. The location of the injury can also be affected by the chemicals solubility. Chemicals like phosgene and nitrogen dioxide, which are less soluble chemicals and affect areas that are much deeper in the lungs. Highly soluble gases like SO2 and HCI when they are produced by fire can quickly irritate major airways.
Regardless of the fire type (meaning what burned, whether it be wood, plastic, etc…) it’s essential that you first seek medical attention and then seek experienced legal counsel.
Complications of Inhalation Injuries
Short Term Complications
Inhalation injuries that are caused by microbial infections are the most common of the short-term complications, with the most common of these infections being pneumonia. Of those with an inhalation injury, pneumonia has up to a 40% infection rate.
Diagnosing a pulmonary infection can be quite difficult due to symptom similarity of the infection and the inhalation injuries symptoms. Observing a changing of the symptoms or observing an unexpected worsening is the key to diagnosing this infection. Bacteria that can cause pneumonia and other infections can be tested for by using gram stains.
The infections that are the result of an inhalation injury are treated through an antibiotic that’s specifically tailored to the pathogen that’s been determined by the gram stain test mentioned above. A preventive use of an antibiotic has not been proven to be effective at all, but rather it allows for a more rapid development of a strain resistant to antibiotics.
In approximately 80% of those with an inhalation injury, endotracheal intubation will be necessary. The reason or this is the respiratory difficulties that are caused by an inhalation injury. That being said, any long-term intubation (anything that’s longer than three weeks) can greatly increase pulmonary infection risk. The infection is caused when bacteria colonizes the plastic tubing used for the intubation. Long-term intubation is also known to aggravate laryngeal damage by occasionally adhering to the tissue or by causing an ulcer.
Long Term Complications
Whenever there is excessive granulation polyps can form. This is where the fibrous connective tissue which forms after a fibrin clot happens during the process of healing. Most typically, within six months after injury the polyps will heal, however, using corticosteroids can help speed this process up.
There are some very severe cases where polyps will form within the small airway, potentially leading to a syndrome which is similar to bronchiolitis obliterans. This will lead to both inflammation and scarring, as well as the potential to decrease the lung function to as little as 20%, which in turn can lead to death by respiratory failure.
One of the long-term, although rare, side complications of an inhalation injury is dysfunction of the reactive airway. This side effect is an irritant induced form of asthma. Most typically it is present in, or develops in, patients that had a pre-existing exposure to an irritant, example a smoker.
In a study from 1985 to 1990, completed by the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research, found that burn victim mortality where there was an affiliated inhalation injury occurs is 29.5%, or six times higher, than those who did not also incur an inhalation injury. If you or a loved one has a burn and/or inhalation injury it’s important that you seek legal counsel.
To speak with a lawyer about a personal burn injury lawsuit and/or compensation for an inhalation injury, call The Doan Law Firm for a free consultation. Our burn injury and inhalation injury lawyers are available to take your call 24/7/365, regardless of time of day or holiday. Contact us now and get the representation you need and deserve at (800) 349-0000.