Commotio cordis: A case report of a fatal blow

Dena Nazer, Nirupama Kannikeswaran, Carl Schmidt

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Commotio cordis secondary to a blunt blow to the chest wall can result in ventricular fibrillation and sudden death in children. While it is commonly reported in adolescents during sporting activities, it may result from non-accidental trauma especially in infants and younger children. We report a case of a 6-month-old baby boy who presented to the emergency department in cardiac arrest. The patient's hospital records, postmortem imaging, and the autopsy results were reviewed. External examination of the infant did not reveal any evidence of trauma. Postmortem imaging revealed multiple healing posterior rib fractures and a metaphyseal corner fracture, both considered fractures highly specific for physical abuse. The autopsy revealed a structurally normal heart with no microscopic abnormalities. The infant's father confessed to hitting the child on the chest after which the child became unresponsive. Given the constellation of postmortem imaging and autopsy findings in addition to the father's confession, the child's death was ruled as a homicide secondary to commotio cordis. Since there are no structural and microscopic abnormalities in the heart autopsy in cases of commotio cordis, timely on-scene investigation and a thorough investigation regarding the mechanism of injury are required to make this diagnosis. Early identification of non-accidental trauma is crucial and can prevent further abuse in other siblings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-386
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


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