Blood in the stool after a car accident can be related to a serious abdominal injury. It is often caused by a tear in the colon or rectum. Part of the problem is that symptoms may not appear for hours to days after the accident, causing a less promising prognosis. Immediate medical intervention is necessary to save the injured person’s life.
Here’s a look at the causes of blood in the stool relative to an accident injury, what can be done, the outcome after treatment, future problems after the injury and the compensation that is needed in such cases.
The Hidden Trauma of Blood in Stool Injuries
Superficial cuts are easy to see. Not so with a laceration to the colon or rectum. Yet, both happen mainly due to the tension caused by the seat belt in a high-impact collision, particularly one involving deceleration. It can also occur secondary to penetrating injury, where a sharp object in the vehicle penetrates the colon. However, the latter is less common. A visible clue to colon injury is an area of ecchymosis (bruising) beneath the seat belt. While this is not necessarily a clear indicator of colon laceration, it should put the treating physician on guard for its potential.
Classification of Bloody Stool and Symptoms
Seeing blood in the stool is not normal and needs to be evaluated. Usually, abdominal trauma produces a series of symptoms that include a bloody stool. Some of the other common symptoms include pain in the abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or even fainting. This is due to a loss of blood, which can eventually show itself in the stool. If the laceration is to the rectum, chances are there will be bright red blood that appears quickly after the trauma. Depending on the area of blood loss, a bleed in the colon will present as a dark red to a bright red.
Diagnosis of Colon or Rectal Tears
A physician will evaluate a complaint of blood in the stool after a traumatic incident by doing a series of X-rays of the chest and abdomen. X-rays of the abdomen will most likely reveal air in the abdominal cavity or fluid – which does not belong there. A CT scan of the abdomen might show a thickening of the wall of the colon. This is indicative of colon damage. Usually, a definitive diagnosis is made during surgery.
Degree of Damage
As with anything, trauma to the colon wall is not the same in all cases. It depends largely on the degree of trauma. Symptoms may be mild at first, with tenderness to the abdomen. However, the pain will begin to escalate if the colon is damaged.
A bruise in the seat belt area may represent clot formation in the wall of the colon. The clot can rupture at some point in the future, causing perforation of the colon. When this happens, the contents of the colon can leak into the abdominal cavity, setting the stage for infection and sepsis (infection in the blood).
In other cases, the bleeding into the rectum and stool can indicate a large laceration or perforation of the colon. Aside from the colon emptying its contents into the abdominal cavity, the individual can lose an enormous amount of blood. The blood loss can cause the person to bleed out if it is not caught and repaired in time.
Because of the loss of blood with such injuries, patients are usually transfused up to six units of blood. If someone who was in an accident and released to home care develops fainting or a drop in blood pressure, they must be transported to the hospital by emergency rescue teams immediately. If this is not done, the person may expire before reaching the medical care facility.
Anticoagulants or Aspirin
It is important to not give someone with abdominal trauma an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or Advil. This sort of drug causes bleeding. It is essential to tell the doctor if the person is taking an anticoagulant such as Plavix for a heart condition. In the event that injured individual is discharged, it is vital that you speak with their cardiologist about this right away.
Less Destructive Colon Damage
While any damage to the colon is serious, some are classified as non-destructive damage. This means that less than half of the colon wall has been involved. The circulation to the bowel will not be lost in this situation. This can be treated by repairing the colon without using a colostomy. A colostomy is a procedure that takes the colon to the outside of the body and allows the contents to empty into a bag, which the patient changes. Repairing the colon without using a colostomy has been seen as preferable and causes less after-surgery complications in less destructive colon damage.
More Destructive Colon Injuries
These are injuries to the colon where more than half of the wall of the colon has been damaged. When this happens, the blood circulation to the colon is also damaged. Because such colon damage is most likely to cause infection with the possibility of sepsis, treatment usually involves the use of a colostomy.
Infection After Colon Damage
About 20 percent of all people with a colon tear develop an infection. The stool in the colon or the rectum can leak into the surrounding tissues and cause severe infection. The longer it takes from the time the accident happened to surgery and repair of the colon, the more likely an infection will occur. Once the repair is done, the chance of the contents leaking is low (2 percent or lower). In the event that a portion of the colon needed to be removed with the two ends being joined, the chance of complications is higher.
As noted above, infection with possible sepsis can happen after colon injury. This in itself is a serious complication and one that requires antibiotics given intravenously. The risk of death with sepsis, if the infection does not resolve, is high. The mortality rate of sepsis is 40 to 60 percent.
Care of the Ostomy
When a colostomy is used, the stoma or ostomy on the outside of the body is used to empty the contents of the colon into a bag attached to the stoma. Problems associated with a colostomy include irritation of the stoma, infection, bleeding, B-12 deficiency, electrolyte imbalance or blockage of the colon due to food or formation of fibrous tissue called adhesions. Sometimes this requires surgery, and in other cases, a liquid diet will give the bowel a chance to rest.
Caring for an ostomy involves keeping it clean and changing the pouch attached to it. Many people lead a normal life after such surgery, and the colon may be able to be reattached in the future. However, there may be an emotional component to having undergone such surgery. Oftentimes, sexual relations are affected, and spouses must be kept in the loop.
Compensation After a Lacerated Colon or Rectum
Either injury requires hospitalization and ongoing care after the initial surgery. Fighting infection is a primary focus and involves diligent monitoring initially and to a lesser extent after the colostomy is performed. For some, the colon can be repaired, and the chances of recovery are high. For those with a colostomy, continued care is warranted and necessary. This also means long-term cost.
The need to garner future medical expense compensation is necessary, and an experienced lawyer will factor this into the total compensation. Since there are many ups and downs after this type of injury, particularly in the early phases, it is better to wait until doctors are able to give a solid prognosis before settling the case or taking it to court. The cost of continued aftercare can be high, and if the case is settled too early, the victim will end up paying the bill.
Hiring a Lawyer for Car Accident Injuries
If you’ve been injured in a car accident that involves torn or perforated injuries to the abdomen and similar, the Law Offices of David Azizi can provide a free review of your important claim. Contact us online or call (800) 991-5292 to take an important step toward justice and fair compensation.