Air Bags and the Skin

Monica Corazza, MD; Silvana Trincone, MD; Maria Rosaria Zampino, MD; Annarosa Virgili, MD

In This Article


Upon reviewing the literature, air bag pathology seems to be infrequent; however, we believe this pathology may be overlooked. Frequently, air bag deployment is associated with automobile accidents of differing severity, and it is reasonable to suppose that minor cutaneous damage is underestimated in comparison with other, more serious injuries. Furthermore, the cutaneous lesions due to air bag deployment are sometimes nonspecific and difficult to diagnose because they have not as yet been commonly discussed in the literature and may resemble other slight injuries (e.g., lesions due to splintered glass, bruises, or contusions). Again, the concomitant combination of different pathogenetic mechanisms may complicate the severity of the lesions and the diagnosis. There is no statistical data on this subject.

A retrospective review of data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the overwhelming majority (96%) of air bag injuries reported during the years 1980-1994 were classified as minor.[22] We conclude that, in spite of the possibility of some minor damage and in light of their potential life-saving potential, the use of air bags is unquestionably recommended.