A throat contusion, or bruise, usually occurs due to trauma such as falling with an object inside the mouth. Symptoms of a throat contusion may include pain, swelling, and discoloration.

It is a relatively uncommon injury but may be serious if not treated properly. For example, falling with a toothbrush or spoon in the mouth can cause a throat contusion. Other examples include a person receiving a blow sustained pressure to the neck.

If a person experiences a blow to the neck, they should contact a doctor for evaluation and diagnosis. People who have trouble breathing or speaking as they usually do should seek immediate medical attention.

A person can manage minor injuries with pain relievers, ice, and rest, but more serious contusions may need further medical treatment.

This article explains a throat contusion in more detail, including its main causes and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and when to contact a doctor.

Image of a person's throat.Share on Pinterest
Danil Nevsky/Stocksy

A throat contusion is an injury that often occurs due to an object stuck in the mouth. This damages the throat’s tissues and crushes small blood vessels without breaking the skin.

During a contusion, blood vessels break open, and the blood leaks under the skin, causing a bruise.

Injuries to the throat are rare, but they can be serious and cause death if not treated properly.

A person with a throat contusion may experience several signs and symptoms depending on the severity of their injury. Some throat contusion symptoms include:

A person can incur a throat bruise for many reasons, including falling with an object in the mouth or pressing an object against the throat.

People can also incur injuries to the larynx, or voice box. Some common causes include:

  • road traffic accidents
  • sports-related injuries
  • physical assault
  • injury during a fall
  • choking
  • strangulation

If a doctor suspects a throat contusion, they will first perform a physical evaluation to analyze the severity of the injury. They may also ask questions to better understand how the injury took place.

They may take photos of the person’s neck to compare bruising and swelling over time. Additionally, they will make sure a person can breathe properly and provide assistance if needed.

Once the airway is stable, the doctor can further examine the injury using flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy. This test uses a small, flexible telescope that passes through the person’s nose and into the throat.

Additional tests allow for a complete trauma assessment since other injuries may accompany a bruised throat.

Other tests include:

  • Chest X-ray: This can rule out other health issues that may cause airway injury.
  • Endoscopy: A flexible or rigid endoscopy under general anesthesia allows a healthcare professional to look at the throat’s mucosa lesions and examine swelling in the tissue.
  • Computer tomography (CT) scan: This test takes several X-ray images from different angles of the affected region. Then, it uses computer processing to combine these images and create cross-sectional images of the tissue.
  • Bronchoscopy: A doctor will pass a thin tube through the throat and into the lungs. They can then use the small camera on the end of the tube to look for any signs of injury.

Treatment will depend on the severity and extent of a person’s injury. It typically involves observation and symptom management.

To ease the pain and swelling, a doctor may recommend anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil). They may also advise applying ice packs to the affected area.

Management of contusions varies with the extent and severity of the injury. Alongside the above, it normally includes a person:

  • resting the voice
  • elevating the head of the bed to help decrease throat swelling and manage secretions
  • breathing cool humidified air to improve secretions
  • taking anti-reflux medication to prevent throat inflammation from acid reflux

People with difficulty breathing or noisy breathing due to obstructed airflow may need intubation. Additionally, people with throat trauma may benefit from speech therapy.

A therapist can provide exercises and compensation strategies to help a person comfortably swallow, eat, and speak as they recover.

Throat trauma can easily go unnoticed because its mild initial symptoms can mask severe injuries. If left untreated, serious injury can progress rapidly.

It is important to seek medical attention if a person has experienced a blow to the neck or has a neck injury. People should also pay attention to their symptoms and note any changes.

People should go to the emergency room immediately if they experience any of the following after experiencing trauma to the throat:

  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • hoarseness
  • changes in voice tone
  • spitting blood
  • crepitus
  • severe pain
  • severe swelling

A throat contusion is an injury due to trauma, such as a fall, blow, or sustained pressure. Common causes are contact sports, traffic accidents, or physical assault.

Treatment depends on the injury severity and can range from pain relief medications to surgery. It is critical for people to seek prompt medical attention to treat possible symptoms such as changes in voice, difficulty swallowing, and trouble breathing.