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J Trauma. 1989 Mar;29(3):292-8.

Occult diaphragmatic injury from stab wounds to the lower chest and abdomen.

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Trauma Service, Jamaica Hospital, New York, New York.


Ninety-five patients with stab wounds to the lower chest and abdomen underwent routine abdominal exploration. Eighteen of these patients had diaphragmatic injury and in five patients it was the only injury found. Isolated diaphragmatic injury in asymptomatic patients cannot be reliably delineated by either serial physical examination or peritoneal lavage. Delayed recognition of incarcerated diaphragmatic hernia after stab wounds to the lower left chest and upper abdomen has an associated mortality rate of 36%. The anatomic area of concern can be defined as stab wounds that penetrate the left side of the chest below the fourth intercostal space anteriorly, the sixth intercostal space laterally, and the tip of the scapula posteriorly. Exploratory laparotomy is necessary in these patients until a reliable nonoperative method is established that can exclude injuries to the diaphragm.

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