International Journal of Legal Medicine | VOL. 137

Application of postmortem MRI for identification of medulla oblongata contusion as a cause of death: a case report

Publication Date Oct 27, 2022


Whiplash injury is common in traffic accidents, and severe whiplash is characterized by cervical spinal cord injuries with cervical dislocation or fracture, that can be diagnosed by postmortem computed tomography (PMCT), postmortem magnetic resonance (PMMR), or conventional autopsy. However, for cervical spinal cord injury without fracture and dislocation, PMMR can be more informative because it provides higher resolution of soft tissues. We report the case of a 29-year-old male who died immediately following a traffic accident, in which the vehicle hit an obstacle at a high speed, causing deformation of the bumper and severe damage of the vehicle body. PMCT indicated no significant injuries or diseases related to death, but PMMR showed patchy abnormal signals in the medulla oblongata, and the lower edge of the cerebellar tonsil was herniated out of the foramen magnum. The subsequent pathological and histological results confirmed that death was caused by medulla oblongata contusion combined with cerebellar tonsillar herniation. Our description of this case of a rare but fatal whiplash injury in which there was no fracture or dislocation provides a better understanding of the potentially fatal consequences of cervical spinal cord whiplash injury without fracture or dislocation and of the underlying lethal mechanisms. Compared with PMCT, PMMR provides important diagnostic information in forensic practice for the identification of soft tissue injuries, and is therefore an important imaging modality for diagnosis of whiplash in...


Postmortem Computed Tomography Postmortem Magnetic Resonance Whiplash Injury Cerebellar Tonsillar Herniation Cervical Spinal Cord Injuries Traffic Accident Conventional Autopsy Cervical Spinal Injury Cervical Dislocation Cervical Injury

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