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Can J Surg. 2009 Jun;52(3):177-81.

Update on managing diaphragmatic rupture in blunt trauma: a review of 208 consecutive cases.

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John and Liz Tory Regional Trauma Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.



Blunt diaphragmatic rupture (BDR) is a rare event and represents a diagnostic challenge. The purpose of our study was to review our experience with BDR at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Sunnybrook), the largest trauma centre in Canada, and to highlight recent changes in the diagnosis and management of the condition.


We retrospectively reviewed the cases of patients with BDR who were admitted to Sunnybrook between January 1986 and December 2003 using our trauma registry. We performed Student t and Fisher exact tests to compare our findings on patients with BDR with those on the entire cohort of blunt trauma patients admitted to our centre.


Most patients with BDR were men (64.4%) with a mean age of 42 years. Left-sided tears were most common (65.0%). Patients with BDR had a very high Injury Severity Score (38) and very high mortality (28.8%). Of those who were injured as a result of motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), a significantly greater percentage of patients in the BDR group than in the entire cohort of blunt trauma patients were drivers or front-seat passengers. Patients with BDR were also significantly less likely to be pedestrians, to have experienced a fall or to be involved in a motorcycle collision. Patients with BDR had a higher chest, abdomen, pelvis and extremity Abbreviated Injury Scale score than all blunt trauma patients in general. Most of our patients underwent laparotomy (93.3%). The most common causes of death among patients with BDR were head injury (25.0%), intra-abdominal bleeding (23.3%) and pelvic hemorrhage (18.3%).


Blunt diaphragmatic rupture is rare and difficult to diagnose; however, certain MVC characteristics along with severe associated injuries should raise the index of suspicion. These associated injuries include injuries to the head, chest (including the aorta), abdomen and pelvis. Computed tomographic angiography is essential to rule out associated aortic injury and to increase the diagnostic accuracy of BDR.

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