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Thoracic trauma in fatal falls from height - Traumatic pneumopericardium correlates with height of fall and severe injury


Heimer, Jakob; Gascho, Dominic; Thali, Michael J; Schweitzer, Wolf (2018). Thoracic trauma in fatal falls from height - Traumatic pneumopericardium correlates with height of fall and severe injury. Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, 14(2):188-193.

Abstract

Pneumopericardium (PPC) describes the collection of gas in the pericardial sac. In tension Pneumopericardium (tPPC), this collection of gas may lead to cardiac tamponade. PPC following blunt trauma is considered a rare finding, as reflected by the low number of case reports on the topic. We analyzed the prevalence and pathophysiology of PPC and the associated trauma in 44 cases of falls from height. We retrospectively analyzed postmortem CT data and autopsy reports of fatal falls in the period March 2014-2017. A valid estimation of the height of the fall and a documented impact on an even and hard surface were inclusion criteria. A total of 44 cases were included in the study. We identified PPC in 18 of the 44 cases, and it was associated with an increased height of the fall, alongside aortic, pericardial, and myocardial ruptures. All cases with PPC also presented with bilateral pneumothorax. Five cases presented with a "ballooning" pericardium, indicating tPPC. PPC is a common finding in cases of falls from great heights. Due to a significant correlation with height and thus impact severity, PPC may be used as a reconstructive element in medico-legal investigations. Association with trauma makes PPC a sign of severe thoracic injury in postmortem and clinical radiology.

Abstract

Pneumopericardium (PPC) describes the collection of gas in the pericardial sac. In tension Pneumopericardium (tPPC), this collection of gas may lead to cardiac tamponade. PPC following blunt trauma is considered a rare finding, as reflected by the low number of case reports on the topic. We analyzed the prevalence and pathophysiology of PPC and the associated trauma in 44 cases of falls from height. We retrospectively analyzed postmortem CT data and autopsy reports of fatal falls in the period March 2014-2017. A valid estimation of the height of the fall and a documented impact on an even and hard surface were inclusion criteria. A total of 44 cases were included in the study. We identified PPC in 18 of the 44 cases, and it was associated with an increased height of the fall, alongside aortic, pericardial, and myocardial ruptures. All cases with PPC also presented with bilateral pneumothorax. Five cases presented with a "ballooning" pericardium, indicating tPPC. PPC is a common finding in cases of falls from great heights. Due to a significant correlation with height and thus impact severity, PPC may be used as a reconstructive element in medico-legal investigations. Association with trauma makes PPC a sign of severe thoracic injury in postmortem and clinical radiology.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:3 May 2018
Deposited On:26 Jun 2018 12:36
Last Modified:26 Jun 2018 12:36
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1547-769X
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s12024-018-9977-7
PubMed ID:29725818

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