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Pulmonary Contusion

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Pulmonary Contusion


A pulmonary contusion is a bruiseto the lungs. Early treatment can improve outcomes and avoid problems, such as a collapsed lung.

The Lungs (cut-away view).

http://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=49204920BQ00030.jpgBQ00030.jpgNULLjpgNose airway to lungsNULL\\filer01a\Intellect\images\BQ00030.jpgNULL11NULL2003-04-163803904920_969308Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


This problem is caused by a direct blow or injury from:

  • Falls
  • A motor vehicle accident
  • Gunshot wounds

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Playing contact sports
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Health problems that may cause falls
  • Being around violence
  • Side effects from medicines, such as blood thinners


Problems may not start until 24 to 48 hours after the injury. Symptoms may be chest pain and problems breathing.


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. The doctor will ask how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests will be done to look for signs of internal bleeding.

Images may be taken of the chest to look for damage to the lungs or chest. This can be done with:


Treatment will depend on the severity of the injury. It will also depend on any other injuries. Emergency care may be needed.

The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve breathing. Options are:

  • Medicine to ease pain
  • Oxygen therapy to improve the amount of oxygen in the blood
  • Mechanical ventilation to take over or support breathing—if the lung is severely damaged


It is hard to prevent problems that happen due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent injuries from falls. Other things that may help lower the risk of this problem are:

  • Wearing proper safety equipment when playing contact sports
  • Wearing a seatbelt when in a motor vehicle




  • Piccolo CL, Ianniello S, et al. Diagnostic imaging in pediatric thoracic trauma. Radiol Med. 2017;122(11):850-865.
  • Pulmonary contusion. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries-poisoning/thoracic-trauma/pulmonary-contusion.
  • Pulmonary contusion. Radiopaedia.org website. Available at: https://radiopaedia.org/articles/pulmonary-contusion. Accessed August 20, 2021.
  • Pulmonary contusion. University of Connecticut—Korey Stringer Institute website. Available at: http://ksi.uconn.edu/emergency-conditions/internal-trauma/pulmonary-contusion.
  • Pulmonary contusion—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/pulmonary-contusion-emergency-management.


  • Mark D. Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.