Traumatic Diaphragmatic Injuries at Medicolegal Autopsy: A 1-Year Prospective Study

Charmaine Van Wyk*, Keven Khazamula Hlaise, Ryan Blumenthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Introduction Traumatic diaphragmatic injuries (TDIs) are relatively rare. The forensic literature pertaining to TDIs consists mainly of case studies, suggesting little attention to these injuries during autopsies and research. Materials and Methods This prospective study was conducted at the Ga-Rankuwa Forensic Pathology Services mortuary over a 1-year period. We included all cases who had a full medicolegal autopsy, as prescribed by the relevant South African legislation (Inquest Act 58 of 1959). All diaphragms were examined by a forensic medical practitioner performing the autopsy. Results Nine hundred ninety-nine cases were analyzed; of these, 71 cases with TDIs were identified. The incidence of TDI was, therefore, determined to be 7.11%. A total of 60.56% involved the right hemidiaphragm, 19.72% the left hemidiaphragm, and 19.72% were present bilaterally. A total of 85.92% were present in men and 14.08% in women. Blunt force trauma comprised 33.80%, and penetrative trauma 61.97%. Most were associated with severe injuries. A total of 12.68% had organ herniation through the defects present. Conclusions Our study revealed that TDIs were more common than initially reported. The right side was more often involved in our study than in other studies. Diaphragmatic injuries were observed in 21.46% of all penetrative trauma cases received in a year.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-353
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • TDI
  • autopsy
  • blunt trauma
  • diaphragmatic herniation
  • medicolegal
  • penetrating trauma
  • traumatic diaphragmatic hernia


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