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WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 24, 2013, 09:25 PM

Effects of being buried discussed following Fargo construction accident

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV)-- A Fargo construction worker is lucky; being buried can easily be fatal...and for those who survive, there can be long-term effects, from loss of limb to brain damage.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV)-- A Fargo construction worker is lucky; being buried can easily be fatal...and for those who survive, there can be long-term effects, from loss of limb to brain damage.

The most obvious concern with being buried is suffocation. But even if the face isn't covered, the weight and pressure on a person's chest can make it difficult to breathe.

The construction worker buried in a 16 foot trench in Fargo was covered up to his shoulders. A 6 year-old Illinois boy was just released from a hospital after he was buried in a sand dune for three hours. Doctors there say he will likely suffer lung problems from inhaling sand, but is expected to make a full neurological recovery.

Dr. Robert Martino - Sanford Occupational: "In the case of suffocation, you're always concerned about things such as hypoxia to the brain, and the aftermath of that. In addition, any damage that might happen to the lungs."

Suffocation isn't the only concern. "Crush syndrome" happens when all that pressure destroys tissue, releasing toxins which quickly flow into the bloodstream when the pressure is lifted. That can cause organ damage or failure, especially in the heart or kidneys. The pressure can also restrict blood flow to the muscles, potentially causing loss of limb.

Dr. Martino: "Panic is also something that sometimes will happen in these cases, because people are obviously distressed over that. It's one of the things you have to consider when dealing with a cave-in situation."

The amount of time and the weight under which a person is buried play a factor in how serious the injuries are. Treatment on crush victims often begins before they are removed, in an attempt to prevent crush syndrome.

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