Direct impact to the larynx is usually prevented in accidents by the protective nature of the chin. In some situations, the occupant motions leave the larynx unprotected and susceptible to impact by the steering wheel rim or instrument panel. As one of the unpaired vital organs of the body, there is no easy way to provide an alternative for its functions when the larynx is lost or damaged. Information available on the tolerance of the unembalmed human larynx to force is quite limited.
This paper describes a multidisciplinary study to determine the response of unembalmed human larynges to blunt mechanical loading and to interpret the response with respect to clinical data. Fresh intact larynges were obtained at autopsy and tested at either static or dynamic loading conditions utilizing special test fixtures in materials-testing machines. Load and deformation data were obtained up to levels sufficient to produce significant fractures in both the thyroid and cricoid cartilages. Additional information was obtained in the form of permanent dimensional changes through direct measurements and location of fracture sites by use of xeroradiography. Final evaluation of the damage was performed following dissection of the laryngeal structure. The results of the tests are analyzed and interpreted in relation to establishing tolerance criteria for laryngeal loading.