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An Examination of Asiana Airlines Crash Injuries

While most of the people on board the recently crashed Asiana Airlines flight escaped with their lives intact, the tragedy did lead to a number of spinal injuries that could require longterm treatment.  Our own Dr. Gary Brazina discussed the nature of some of these injuries recently on The Today Show, and another report provides additional information about what those involved in the accident had to go through.

The University of California-San Francisco’s vice chairman of neurological surgery, who was himself responsible for treating some of the injured parties in the wake of the crash, explains that common injuries included spinal damage, head injuries, orthopedic injuries, and stretched ligaments.  In fact, the nature of the plane crash was such that many injuries treated were remarkably similar in nature.

That’s because, when the plane actually came down, the persons onboard each sustained similar trauma.  Their bodies were thrown forward against their seatbelts, putting pressure on their spines, internal organs, and entire skeletal structure.  After the initial impact, their bodies would have been thrown in any number of directions.  As explained in the report, the whiplash threat would have been quite high in such a situation.

In many cases, doctors worried about the potential for paralysis.  The doctor notes that torn ligaments, for one, can contribute to spine instability.  In order to increase such stability, he and his team set out to oversee operations that would find rods and screws being implanted.  Hyper extension and spinal fractures were also common injuries that medical teams sought to correct.

All in all, 180 people had to be transported to one of the hospitals in the San Francisco area, and 53 of those came through the doors of San Francisco General Hospital.  At the time of the report’s writing, 34 had been allowed to leave.

There is some good news to be had in all of this.  Doctors have praised the efforts of emergency responders who immediately attempted to provide stability to the passengers onboard.  The doctor interviewed for the report acknowledges that their efforts to prohibit neck movement via cervical collars and backboards likely reduced the overall spinal damage those crash victims may have incurred, a fact readily backed up by San Francisco General’s Chief of Surgery.

Children on board the flight are also said to have sustained injuries that proved to be less severe on the whole than the damage accrued by adults.  The thought is that their flexibility and ability to bounce back from damage, not to mention a lower center of gravity, contributed to their safety, whereas adults would have been more privy to whiplash.


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