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How is Soft Tissue Damage Diagnosed?

Trusted Content
Legally reviewed by:
Erik Abrahamson
May 24, 2017
May 24, 2017 | Personal Injury

Injury Attorneys in Tampa Helping Victims Suffering Soft Tissue Damage

Soft tissue injuries are among the most common types of injuries suffered in vehicle collisions and other accidents. But, proving soft tissue damage, its effects, and its causes can often be a challenge. The key is to obtain a prompt diagnosis, and to establish – with medical evidence – that your injury is the result of a traumatic impact consistent with the type of accident in which you were involved.

This begs the question: How is soft tissue damage diagnosed?

Diagnosing Soft Tissue Damage from a Traumatic Accident

What is “soft tissue?”

“Soft tissue” is a broad term that describes many of the more-fragile parts of the human body. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, and skin all fall within the category of soft tissue, while bones and cartilage are excluded. The organs, and the supportive and connective structures around the organs, are largely made up of soft tissue. Soft tissue is responsible for controlling many of the body’s key functionalities.

What are some examples of soft tissue damage?

There are six primary types of soft tissue damage. These injuries can result from traumatic events (such as falls and car accidents), or from repetitive stress (such as lifting on the job). Soft tissue injuries include:

  • Bursitis – Bursitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the fluid-filled sacs between the bones and the muscles or tendons. These sacs, called “bursa,” can be damaged as a result of overuse or as a result of trauma to the ankle, elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, and other joints.
  • Contusions – Contusion is the medical term for a bruise. The discoloration of bruises results from bleeding into the affected tissue after a blunt-force traumatic injury. Contusions can vary widely in severity, with severe contusions requiring medical attention.
  • Sprains – A sprain is a ligament injury most commonly caused by a twisting or wrenching motion. While sprains are perhaps most commonly known as sports injuries, they can result from falls, bicycle and pedestrian accidents, motor vehicle collisions, and other traumatic incidents. Severe sprains can result in tears which often require surgery.
  • Strains – Strains are injuries to the muscles and tendons – like other types of soft tissue injuries, they can have a wide variety of causes. Severe strains can result in tears as well, and patients who undergo surgery for torn muscles and tendons will often face long roads to recovery.
  • Stress Injuries – When traumatic accidents result in stress fractures, the soft tissue connected to the broken bone will often be damaged as well. The severity of the injury will depend on the nature of the traumatic impact and the force involved, and will determine the type and extent of treatment required.
  • Tendonitis – Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon. While the inflammation can subside without surgical intervention in most cases (with patients usually requiring rehabilitative physical therapy), if the inflammation results from a tear, surgery may be required.

How is soft tissue damage diagnosed?

One of the first steps in diagnosing a soft tissue injury is to examine the patient’s symptoms. Understanding the symptoms, and identifying what led to those symptoms, can help determine whether further diagnostic measures may be necessary. Physicians treating patients who have been involved in traumatic accidents will typically look for symptoms such as:

  • Swelling, discoloration, or other physical abnormalities in the affected area (which may indicate inflammation or bruising)
  • Inability to put weight on a joint or other part of the body
  • Pain in and around the affected area
  • Numbness or “pins and needles” sensations in the affected area or elsewhere (which may indicate a neurological injury (damage to the nerves))

When a patient presents signs of a possible soft tissue injury which may require treatment, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan will usually be used to provide a more-thorough diagnosis. Unlike an x-ray, which only shows bones, an MRI can provide a detailed image of the soft tissue inside the body. Based upon the patient’s physical examination and the MRI results, the soft tissue injury can then be diagnosed in one of three grades:

Grade 1 Soft Tissue Injury

A Grade 1 soft tissue injury is generally classified as “mild” and should heal on its own with appropriate rest, icing, compression, and elevation. Grade 1 injuries typically last around a week.

Grade 2 Soft Tissue Injury

Grade 2 soft tissue injuries are considered “moderate” and can take several weeks to repair, though surgical intervention is still unnecessary. Treatment modalities for Grade 2 soft tissue injuries are generally similar to those for Grade 1 injuries.

Grade 3 Soft Tissue Injury

Grade 3 soft tissue injuries involve a complete tear of the affected tissue. These injuries are considered “serious,” and surgery is usually required to repair the torn tissue.

How is the cause of a soft tissue injury determined?

The cause of a soft tissue injury can be determined based upon the nature and severity of the injury, as well as the events preceding the patient’s diagnosis. For example, if a patient appears at a hospital complaining of severe knee pain after being involved in a T-bone accident at an intersection, a likely diagnosis will be a soft tissue injury resulting from blunt-force trauma sustained in the accident. An investigation of the accident scene will provide additional evidence linking the injury to the collision.

The soft tissue in the body is fragile, and the significant forces involved in a wide variety of types of accidents can easily lead to soft tissue injuries. Some of the most common causes of traumatic soft tissue injuries include:

Are you experiencing the symptoms of a soft tissue injury? Were you recently involved in an accident? If so, it is important that you seek a thorough diagnosis. If you would like more information, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.

Contact a Tampa Injury Lawyer at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk

To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced injury lawyers, you can call (800) 538-4878, start a Live Chat, or send us a message online. We handle all cases on a contingency-fee basis, which means that you pay no fees or costs unless we win. Are you entitled to compensation for a soft tissue injury? Find out. Contact Abrahamson & Uiterwyk today.

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