Experimental Traumatology - Blast injuries

Explosions are unique in their ability to inflict acute injuries on many people at the same time, resulting in high levels of mortality and morbidity. A blast injury is a complex type of physical trauma resulting from direct or indirect exposure to an explosion.

The Experimental Traumatology research unit investigates injuries from high order and low order explosives. We collaborate with the Swedish Defence Research Agency and focus on medical consequences. We investigate primary, secondary, and tertiary injuries, with capabilities to investigate each injury mechanism separately. Our aim is to mitigate injury, improve personal protection equipment and increase survival, in a Swedish context and internationally.

Blast injuries are categorized into five stages, depending on action:

  1. Primary blast injuries result from the high pressures created by explosions. Blast overpressure can crush the body and cause internal injuries. Primary blast injuries are unique to the blast and include:
    • Blast lung (pulmonary barotrauma)
    • Tympanic Membrane rupture and middle ear damage
    • Abdominal hemorrhage and perforation
    • Eye rupture
    • Mild traumatic brain injury without physical signs of head injury (concussion)
  2. Secondary blast injuries result when strong blast winds propel fragments and debris against the body and cause blunt force and penetrating injuries including:
    • Penetrating ballistic (fragmentation or blunt injuries)
    • Eye penetration
    • Closed or open brain injuries
  3. Tertiary blast injuries result from strong blast winds and pressure gradients that accelerate the body and cause the same types of blunt force injuries that would occur in for example a car crash and may include:
    • Bone fractures
    • Blunt injuries
    • Crush injuries
    • Traumatic amputations
    • Closed or open brain injuries
  4. Quaternary blast injuries result from other explosive effects, including heat and light, and from exposure to toxic substances from fuels, metals, and gases that can cause:
    • Burns
    • Inhalation injuries
  5. Quinary blast injuries refer to the clinical consequences of post-detonation environmental contaminants, including chemical, biological, and radiological substances, and can cause: 
    • Radiation exposure
    • Chemical burns
    • Viral or bacterial infections
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