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A pulmonary contusion, also known as lung contusion, is a bruise of the lung, caused by chest trauma. As a result of damage to capillaries, blood and other fluids accumulate in the lung tissue. A pulmonary contusion is usually caused directly by blunt trauma but can also result from explosion injuries or a shock wave associated with penetrating trauma. With the use of explosives during World Wars I and II, pulmonary contusion resulting from blasts gained recognition.
Diagnosis is made by studying the cause of the injury, physical examination and chest radiography. The severity ranges from mild to severe: small contusions may have little or no impact on health, yet pulmonary contusion is the most common type of potentially lethal chest trauma. Pulmonary contusion is usually accompanied by other injuries. Pulmonary contusion and laceration are injuries to the lung tissue. Signs and symptoms take time to develop, and as many as half of cases are asymptomatic at the initial presentation. The more severe the injury, the more quickly symptoms become apparent.
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In severe cases, symptoms may occur as quickly as three or four hours after the trauma. Motor vehicle collisions are the most common cause of pulmonary contusion. It is usually caused by the rapid deceleration that results when the moving chest strikes a fixed object. In addition to blunt trauma, penetrating trauma can cause pulmonary contusion. Contusion resulting from penetration by a rapidly moving projectile usually surrounds the path along which the projectile traveled through the tissue.