What is Crush Asphyxia?

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Crush asphyxia is a common complication of crush injuries. Crushing injuries such as with a building collapsing in an earthquake, or being crushed by heavy machinery, or changing a tire and having the vehicle fall on you could cause crush asphyxia. When

Every now and then we hear of freak accidents where a vehicle falls on someone and the person suffers a crush injury. Sometimes the person dies from the injury, and sometimes the person lives to tell about it. If the crushing blow has occurred on the chest, it is very likely the victim will die from crush asphyxia. This happens when the victim cannot inflate his or her chest muscles to breathe. When air leaves the lungs, the victim cannot re-inflate his or her lungs.

There have been freak accidents where people have been buried alive in sand. There was a man in the United Kingdom who was buried in sand by accident. He was digging a hole with his brother on the beach of Druridge Bay in Northumberland on March 28, 2012. The 32 year old man, Ronnie Martin, was lucky to be rescued before he expired from crush asphyxia. If his brother hadn’t been there, he most likely wouldn’t have survived. The EMTs administered oxygen to him while they were rescuing him. The sand was crushing down on his chest making it difficult for him to breathe. He was rescued before crush asphyxia overtook him. Not everyone is so lucky. Read about his rescue here.  

Crush injuries are so traumatic because there is a sequence of events that occurs.  The crushing injury, literally, squeezes the life out of the skeletal muscles. The protein within the muscle cells and potassium is released. Tissue death occurs fairly quickly. Then you also have the threat of cardiac arrest and kidney failure when circulation is restored to the body. The cardiac arrest occurs when the potassium which was released by the muscle cells starts to circulate in the blood stream. The kidney failure begins when the protein, myoglobin, is released into the blood stream. Then on top of all these complications, you have the threat of crush asphyxia if the crushing injury happens to the chest area.

In January of this year (2012) there was a freak accident where a woman was buried alive in her SUV when a dump truck full of sand toppled over and covered the car and spilled into the vehicle. She was not rescued soon enough and she died. The article doesn’t say she died of crush asphyxia, but it was possible that this was a contributing factor of what killed her. You can see that article here.

Crush injuries are traumatic and life threatening. There must be emergency measures to save a person who is in such peril. Even with emergency measures, many people don’t survive crush injuries due to the complications that follow.


Crush asphyxia

Man buried alive

Woman buried alive


carol roach
Posted on Apr 10, 2012
Ron Siojo
Posted on Apr 8, 2012