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Seatbelts, airbags also good for kidneys

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Seatbelts and airbags are not only good at protecting a person’s head and chest during a car crash. They also help protect the kidneys, according to a new report.

Researchers found that survivors of car accidents who wore a seatbelt and had a vehicle with airbags were less likely to have a serious kidney injury or to need one of their kidneys removed than people who didn’t take those precautions.

“This provides additional evidence to support the role of these protective devices in motor vehicles,” Dr. Marc Bjurlin, the report’s lead author, said.

Bjurlin is a urologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. The research was presented Friday at the 109th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association in Orlando, Florida.

Seatbelts are designed to spread the force of a vehicle crash across the pelvis and chest while an airbag is meant to soften the impact between the body and car.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed information on motor vehicle accident injuries in 2010 and 2011 from the National Trauma Data Bank. Of 287,174 accidents, there were 2,580 kidney injuries.

The researchers found that when airbags and seatbelts were used together, the risk of serious kidney injuries fell by about 23 percent. The risk of surgery to remove a kidney fell by more than half.

Bjurlin said there are likely multiple reasons why using seatbelts and airbags protects the kidneys.

For example, seatbelts keep people from bouncing throughout the vehicle while also spreading out the impact of the crash.

“Ironically, in some studies the seatbelt has been found to be a cause of kidney injuries,” Bjurlin told Reuters Health. While that may be true in some cases, he said overall wearing seatbelts and using airbags is beneficial.

“It protects your kidneys and reduced the risk of them being taken out,” he said.

The results will also be published online in the Journal of Urology.

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