Pulmonary Contusion: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

pulmonary contusion icd 10

Is a term used to describe a lung injury that results in internal bleeding.

Some people refer to this condition as Lung Contusion, the significant damage that causes blood and fluids to build up or accumulate in alveolar spaces as well as loss of the normal lung structure and functions.

This injury usually takes 24 hours to develop. Pulmonary Contusion makes it difficult for the patient to breathe and, in more severe cases, it can lead to low levels of oxygen in the blood and other complications.

According to experts, the reported mortality among patients who suffered a Lung Contusion ranges from 10% to 25% of all cases.

At least 50% of the cases of patients with Pulmonary Contusion are likely to develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a life-threatening and widespread inflammation in the lungs.

Some people consider that infants are more susceptible to this type of damage because of their chest walls being too pliable.

If left unchecked this condition can potentially threaten the life of a patient.

Causes of Pulmonary Contusion

More often than not, Pulmonary Contusion is the result of a physical or blunt trauma focusing on the area of the chest.

Motor vehicle accidents can produce the injuries that cause Lung Contusions. In fact, 70% of the cases occur due to car collisions.

Falls from relatively high places, sports injuries, and gunshots may also lead to such damage.

Another potential cause of Pulmonary Contusions is related to blast injuries, which are the result of the impact of the pressure wave generated by an explosion.

That occurs because the lung is one of the organs that are most susceptible to this type of forces.

In this particular case, the force generated by an explosion’s shock waves can cause significant internal damage without highly visible injuries to the affected area.

In some cases, Lung Contusions could be the result of penetrating trauma to the chest wall.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Contusion

One of the most typical signs featured in cases of Lung Contusions is chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath, wheezing, and sometimes coughing.

In many cases, this type of injuries may come along with rib fractures or flail chest.

Given this lesion impacts the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the airways of the lungs, one of the symptoms is a low level of oxygen saturation in arterial blood, which could lead to cyanosis.

Cyanosis refers to the bluish discoloration of the skin that results from lack of oxygen in the blood.

That is why medical experts consider Hypoxemia (the abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood) another sign of Lung Contusion.

Accelerated respiration along with increased heart rates are other symptoms found in patients with Pulmonary Contusion.

In severe cases, this injury can lead to the development of Bronchorrhea, which consists of an excessive amount of respiratory secretions from the air passages of the lung.

Half of the cases of Pulmonary Contusion usually feature coughing with blood.

At first, patients may seem asymptomatic. Usually, people start displaying the typical signs 24 hours after sustaining blunt chest trauma.

The higher the intensity of the trauma, the faster the symptoms arise. Pulmonary Contusion tends to get worst slowly for a few days, and it can potentially cause the death of the patient.


Some medical experts perform a physical examination, but that’s rarely enough to determine if a patient suffered from a Lung Contusion.

More often than not, health care providers order plain chest X-ray to diagnose most significant pulmonary contusions.

However, sometimes this test may not be able to provide with a faithful picture of the true extent of the patients’ injuries.

That is why doctors also use Computed Tomography (CT) scan to identify and calculate the size of the lesions.


Mild cases of Pulmonary Contusion don’t require any specific therapy. However, if the condition of the patient worsens in the 24-48 hours range, doctors will administer supplemental oxygen.

Tracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation may be necessary if patients display difficulty in oxygenation or ventilation.

The primary goal of such procedures is to increase oxygen flow and reduce pain or discomfort the patient may experience.

Medical experts may recommend oxygen therapy to ease breathing along with the use of medications. Part of the treatment for Pulmonary Contusion may also include some fluid restriction.

Once the patients are stable enough, doctors send them home with the instruction of performing deep breathing exercises to improve airflow and speed up recovery.