The diagnosis of blunt diaphragmatic rupture (BDR) is difficult and often missed, leaving many patients with this traumatic injury at risk for life-threatening complications. The potential diagnostic pitfalls are numerous and include anatomic variants and congenital and acquired abnormalities. Chest radiography, despite its known limitations, may still be helpful in the early assessment of severe thoracoabdominal trauma and for detecting initially overlooked BDR or late complications of BDR. However, since the development of helical and multidetector scanners, computed tomography (CT) has become the reference standard; thus, knowledge of the CT signs suggestive of BDR is important for recognition of this injury pattern. A large number of CT signs of BDR have been described elsewhere, many of them individually, but the use of various appellations for the same sign can make previously published reports confusing. The systematic description and classification of CT signs provided in this article may help clarify matters and provide clues for diagnosing BDR. The authors describe 19 distinct CT signs grouped in three categories: direct signs of rupture, indirect signs that are consequences of rupture, and signs that are of uncertain origin. Since no single CT sign can be considered a marker leading to a correct diagnosis in every case of BDR, accurate diagnosis depends on the analysis of all signs present.
© RSNA, 2012.