Author Question: Treatment of Car Accident Victims



Taylor asks the following regarding treatment of multiple victims of a car accident. 
SCENARIO: Serious MVC involving two cars and multiple victims. All passengers were wearing seatbelts, and airbags deployed, but the crash was serious enough that victims are still severely injured.
Jordyn: When writing about the car crash—I’d have it be pretty visual that the car is near ruin. Particularly if someone has died on scene. Having the car rollover several times would accomplish this.

Taylor: Three girls (friends) were in one car together, on the way to a Christian concert. Drunk driver character had an argument with his wife about his drinking, denying that he has a drinking problem, then got angry, left the house and went out for drinks (doing the very thing they just argued about, partly to spite her and partly “to calm down”). He causes a crash with the girls.
CAR ONE: This vehicle contains only the driver.
DRIVER:The driver is a male in his early thirties. He is slumped forward in his seat, initially unresponsive, but rouses when medics address him. There is a strong smell of alcohol on his breath, and although he is responsive, he is displaying obvious signs that he is intoxicated. Upon seeing the crash scene in front of him, he becomes upset, crying and saying things like, “I didn’t mean to”, “My wife is going to kill me”, and “What have I done?” He has a bleeding laceration on his forehead and minor scrapes and bruises on his face (from the impact of the crash and airbags), and bruising from his seatbelt. Aside from these, he is uninjured. Vital signs are elevated, but within normal limits.
Jordyn: This patient would be placed in C-spine precautions. An IV/fluids started. Usually, when EMS starts an IV—they’ll grab several tubes of blood that the hospital can send to the lab. They’ll dress the laceration on his forehead and not likely worry about the minor cuts and scrapes. Whenever there is seatbelt bruising, we always worry about what would be injured underneath.
In the ER: Since he’s intoxicated, he’s not a reliable informant about his pain. So, he’ll get automatic C-spine films to rule out neck/back fracture. They might even consider a CT of his chest and abdomen (they’ll take vital signs into consideration). Law enforcement will be involved and they’ll want blood alcohol levels and if your book is in a specific/real location—I would figure out what the procedure is in that town/city. After major stuff is ruled out—his cuts will be cleaned. The laceration to his forehead would be irrigated and stitched. Tetanus shot if none in the last five years. Once he’s medically cleared, I’m guessing he would be off to jail.
CAR TWO:This vehicle contains a driver and two passengers.
DRIVER:The driver is a female, age 18. She has no detectable pulse or respirations. Apparent DOA, killed on impact in the crash.
Jordyn: She may be declared dead at the scene. That would probably be the easiest way to manage this patient.
PASSENGER ONE:Female, age 17. Managed to free herself from the car after the crash, and is sitting in the grass a short distance away. She is displaying signs of shock. Respirations are slightly shallow and rapid, skin is pale and clammy, and pulse and heart rate are elevated but still within normal limits. She is mostly responsive, but groggy/drowsy and complaining of severe headache, nausea, and dizziness. Chest and neck are bruised from her seatbelt, and she has several other bruises and superficial bleeding cuts on her body. Her right arm is bruised, swollen, and oddly angled, and she is cradling it against her chest and complaining of pain.
Jordyn: Since she is shocky, she’ll get an IV/fluids and tubes drawn for labs at the ER. Considering the mechanism of injury (the fact that one of the occupants of the crash has died) she’ll be placed in C-spine precautions as well. All surviving patients (including the drunk) will also be give oxygen (as it is treatment for shock as well). Her arm will be splinted in a position of comfort. It’s hard to know if they would give her pain medication or not—her c/o of headache, nausea and dizziness could signify head injury and giving a narcotic could complicate that assessment. So, she may just have to tough it out until she’s in the ED.
ER: Vital signs. X-rays of neck, back and deformed arm. Possible CT of the head, chest and abdomen. Often times, deformed extremities need to be reduced either in the OR or can be done under conscious sedation while in the ED. Depends on how you want to go. This patient may be able to go home if her arm can be set in the ED and no other significant injuries are noted.

PASSENGER TWO:Female, age 17. Pinned in her seat inside the car, unable to free herself. Conscious and responsive, but clearly very frightened, and displaying signs of shock. She is complaining of some pain in her neck, numbness and lack of sensation below the waist, and inability to feel or move her legs. Chest and neck are bruised from her seatbelt, and she also has several bruises and cuts on her face, arms, and legs. There is a large, deep bleeding laceration on her right lower leg.
Jordyn: Same: C-spine/back board. IV, fluids, oxygen. Get blood for labs. Laceration of right lower leg will be bandaged to control bleeding. 

ED: Largest concern for this patient is her sign of C-spine injury. So, not only would she get C-spine films. She’ll likely get CT of her neck, spine, chest and abdomen. Probably would x-ray the leg with the laceration to look for foreign bodies before closing it up. Stuff like the leg laceration can wait until a medical game plan is decided upon after they figure out what her neck injury is.

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