J Emerg Med. 2015 Jun 10. [epub before print]
Blast injuries in the United States and worldwide are not uncommon. Partially due to the increasing frequency of both domestic and international terrorist bombing attacks, it is prudent for all emergency physicians to be knowledgeable about blasts and the spectrum of associated injuries.
Our aim was to describe blast physiology, types of blast injuries associated with each body system, and manifestations and management of each injury.
Blast injuries are generally categorized as primary to quaternary injuries. Primary injuries result from the effect of transmitted blast waves on gas-containing structures, secondary injuries result from the impact of airborne debris, tertiary injury results from transposition of the entire body due to blast wind or structural collapse, and quaternary injuries include almost everything else. Different body systems are affected and managed differently. Despite previous dogma, multiple studies now show that tympanic membrane perforation is a poor predictor of other blast injury.
Blast events can produce a myriad of injuries affecting any and every body system. All emergency physicians should be familiar with the presentation and management of these injuries. This knowledge may also be incorporated into triage and discharge protocols guiding management of mass casualty events.