Blast lung injury (BLI) presents unique triage, diagnostic, and management challenges and is a direct consequence of the blast wave from high explosive detonations upon the body.
BLI is a major cause of morbidity and mortality for blast victims both at the scene and among initial survivors.
The blast wave’s impact upon the lung results in tearing, hemorrhage, contusion, and edema with resultant ventilation–perfusion mismatch. BLI is a clinical diagnosis and is characterized by respiratory difficulty and hypoxia, which may occur without obvious external injury to the chest.
Current patterns in worldwide terrorist activity have increased the potential for casualties related to explosions, yet few civilian health care providers in the United States have experience treating patients with explosion–related injuries. Emergency care providers are urged to learn more about the physics of explosions and other types of injuries that can result.
Basic clinical information is provided here to inform practitioners of the presentation, evaluation, management, and outcomes of BLIs.