Commotio Cordis Caused by Violence in China: Epidemiological Characteristics Detected at the Tongji Forensic Medical Center

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Abstract

Commotio cordis (CC) is a recognized rare cause of sudden death in which an apparently minor blow to the chest causes ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest. CC diagnosis is still a challenge for forensic pathologists. A retrospective study of 9794 autopsy cases was conducted at the Department of Forensic Medicine, Tongji Medical College (DFM-TMC, China) from 1955 to 2014. A total of 39 cases (0.4%) were determined to be caused by CC. A male preponderance (male to female of 37:2) was found in the victims, whose age ranged from 13 to 47 years, including more than 85% individuals in their 10s and 20s. Most victims (27 cases, 69.2%) came from village. The highest rate of victims was found for middle school and college students (15 cases, 38.5%), followed by prisoners (11 cases, 28.2%), farmers (9 cases, 23.1%), workers (3 cases, 7.7%), and office staff (1 case, 2.6%). Chest blows were produced by fists (28 cases, 71.8%), feet (6 cases, 15.4%), knee (2 case, 5.1%), head (1 case, 2.6%), or objects (2 cases, 5.1%). Witness statements indicated that most victims collapsed after being impacted in the precordium. The autopsy findings were unremarkable except bruises, contusions, or subcutaneous hemorrhage in the anterior chest (13 cases), bleeding of intercostal muscles (5 cases), and disperse focal petechiae of the epicardium (11 cases). All CC cases in this study were caused by violent attacks and related to criminal processes. Correct diagnosis of CC due to violence has important implications in the judicial system.

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