Report of Roethlisberger “seconds…from dying” Confusing and Inaccurate.
Although none of the editors of Insidesurgery.com have participated in the care of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during and after his recent motorcycle accident, as trauma surgeons have followed the news reports closely. Today, various new outlets are reporting on his first public statements, where he is quoted by MSNBC as saying:
“They told me I was literally seconds, maybe a minute away from dying because I slit a vein or artery in my mouth or my throat and it was draining blood right into my stomach and luckily the paramedic noticed it and stopped it or else I would have had too much blood in my stomach.”
We have several comments to make about this statement. Certainly, it is possible to be killed in a motorcycle
crash, especially if the rider is not wearing a helmet (a decision that trauma surgeons unamimously think is inconsistent with life). Certainly, facial fractures with facial lacerations are very common in motorcycle crashes (euphemistically referred to in the trauma world as face versus pavement). And, patients with facial fracture do usually swallow blood.
But, paramedics generally do not ligate or surgically control bleeding in the field and the likely source of severe bleeding from a facial fracture would not be amenable to placing hemostats or even external pressure with bandages. There can be bleeding from broken bone surfaces or the ethmoid vessels or even the facial vessels that can be packed but that would not be life-threatening generally. Or, there can be massive hemorrhage from disruption from the internal carotid or cavernous sinus or a similar structure that would be beyond the capability to be controlled in the field by a paramedic by simple packing or external pressure.
Lastly, blood draining into the stomach is not immediately life-threatening in any form. It is possible to vomit this blood back up and have it go into the lungs (aspiration) which can cause a serious lung disorder (aspiration pneumonitis), but that condition becomes a clinical management issue usually many hours to days after the initial accident. All trauma resuscitations done at trauma centers have a protocol for removing blood from the stomach after a facial fracture, but it is a routine and somewhat perfunctory step in the overall resuscitation. Blood in the stomach is not a serious complication of trauma.
So, something does not jive here. Either the paramedic was being overly heroic in retelling the sotry or Roethlisberger misunderstood what was related to him.
Copyright 2006 Insidesurgery.com