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Trapped? Don't move the object that has you pinned

One of the most dangerous injuries a person can suffer is a crushing injury. These shatter bone, tear down muscle and lacerate tendons. They break down blood vessels and sometimes cause irreparable damage.

Crush injuries are dangerous for more reasons than just the above. They can also lead to compartment syndrome, which is when there is serious tissue, muscle or organ damage because of an increase in pressure in the part of the body that is below the crush point.

How serious is crush syndrome?

It has the potential to threaten a patient's life. Here's an example of crush syndrome. If you are pinned down by the arm, any part of the body below the point of the injury (in this case, the forearm), begins to die. Increased pressure builds, and there is no way for blood or oxygen to reach the injured body part.

You might think that relieving the pressure is enough to prevent a problem, but that's not always true. In many cases, relieving the pressure and reestablishing blood flow causes toxins to wash through the body, threatening the patient's life.

It's for that reason that emergency teams will tell you not to move a patient and not to remove any objects pinning them down. If compartment syndrome sets in, the patient may have a small chance for survival, even with help from professionals.

What happens when emergency care arrives?

Once the emergency team arrives, they'll need to establish intravenous access to the body. Starting an IV is essential, because there will be numerous medications they need to provide immediately once the object is removed from the body. The emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, will also run an ECG strip and prepare for hyperkalemia, which happens when too much potassium enters the blood due to the injury.

There is a risk of a patient suffering from cardiac arrest, significant pain and other injuries as a result of crush syndrome. The job of EMTs is to make sure they can offset the body's reaction to its toxins, which might otherwise end the patient's life.

What should you do if you or someone you know is pinned by an object?

Do not remove the object. Instead, wait for the instructions from the medical team and for emergency care to arrive. Waiting may seem like a poor choice due to pain, but the reality is that the EMTs have a better chance of helping you if you give them time to prepare you for the treatments you'll need during this emergency situation.

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