Airbags are restraining safety devices, but their activation may sometimes induce injuries during road accidents. Rapid deceleration due to an impact causes the ignition of a sodium azide cartridge, which releases nitrogen gas to inflate the nylon rubber bag. Numerous high-temperature gases, sodium hydroxide, carbon dioxide, and various other metallic oxides are also released producing a corrosive alkaline aerosol.
Cutaneous and extracutaneous injuries due to airbag deployment may occur. Cutaneous injuries are frequent, and consist of irritant dermatitis, and chemical and thermal burns. Furthermore, numerous kinds of traumatic lesions (abrasions, friction burns, and lacerations) may be observed. Extracutaneous damage may involve the eyes, ears, cardiovascular system, nerves, joints, and bones.
The nature of airbag lesions, their frequency, and management are reported. Even though the majority of airbag lesions are minor and do not require hospitalization, correct diagnosis and the choice of the most suitable treatment are necessary.
Traumatic Lesion Motor Vehicle Crash Chemical Burn Ocular Lesion Irritant Contact Dermatitis
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access
No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.
Duma SM, Kress TA, Porta DJ, et al. Air bag induced eye injuries: a report of 25 cases. J Trauma 1996; 41 (1): 114–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pearlman JA, Au Eong KG, Kuhn F, et al. Airbags and eye injuries: epidemiology, spectrum of injury, and analysis of risk factors. Surv Ophthalmol 2001; 46 (3): 234–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stein JD, Jaeger EA, Jeffers JB. Air bags and ocular injuries. Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc 1999; 97: 59–82PubMedGoogle Scholar
Zador PL, Ciccone MA. Automobile driver fatalities in frontal impacts: air bags compared with manual belts. Am J Public Health 1993; 83: 661–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Advanced Air Bags. Monitoring the Performance of Advanced Air Bags and Developing Data for Potential Future Air Bag Rulemakings [online]. Available from URL: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/airbag [Accessed 2004 Sept 7]Google Scholar
Sato Y, Ohshima T, Kondo T. Air bag injuries: a literature review in consideration of demands in forensic autopsies. Forensic Sci Int 2002; 128 (3): 162–7PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Morris MS, Borja LP. Noise levels associated with airbag deployment may result in occupants experiencing irreversible hearing loss. J Trauma 1998; 44: 238–9PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cunningham K, Brown TD, Gradwell E, et al. Air bag associated fatal head injuries: case report and review of the literature on air bag injuries. J Accid Emerg Med 2000; 17 (2): 139–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wallis LA, Greaves I. Injuries associated with airbag deployment. BMJ 2002; 19 (6): 490–3Google Scholar
Stoneham MD. Bilateral first rib fractures associated with driver’s air bag inflation: case report and implications for surgery. Eur J Emerg Med 1995; 2: 60–2PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirchhoff R, Rasmussen SW. Forearm fracture due to the release of an automobile air bag. Acta Orthop Scand 1995; 66: 483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Huelke DF, Moore JL, Compton TW, et al. Upper extremity injuries related to airbag deployments. J Trauma 1995; 38: 482–8PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar