Prevalence, management and outcome of traumatic diaphragm injuries managed by the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service

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This audit of traumatic diaphram injury (TDI) from a busy South African trauma service reviews the spectrum of disease and highlights current approaches to these injuries.


The Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service (PMTS) has maintained an Electronic Surgical Registry (ESR) and a Hybrid Electronic Medical Record (HEMR) system since January 1st 2012.


A total of 105 TDIs were identified and repaired during the study period. The mean patient age was 30 years (range 15–68 years - SD 9.7). The majority (92.4%) of patients were male (97/105). Penetrating trauma was the leading mechanism of injury (94%). 75 patients sustained a TDI from a stab wound, and the remaining 24 injuries resulted from gunshot wounds. Multiple associated injuries and high morbidity was seen with right diaphragm injury, blunt trauma, gunshot wounds and chronic diaphragmatic hernias.


TDI is a fairly uncommon injury with a local incidence of 1.6%. It presents in a spectrum from the obvious to the occult. Multiple associated injuries and high morbidity occur following blunt trauma or gunshot wounds, right diaphragm injury and chronic diaphragmatic hernias. Diagnostic laparoscopy offers a diagnostic and therapeutic tool to prevent progression of occult TDI to chronic diaphragmatic hernias.

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