BACKGROUND : South Africa’s crude death rate was recorded as the highest in the world in 2014. In 2013, 47 murders occurred
daily nationwide, and it was confirmed that sharp force fatalities were frequent events. The aim of our study was to review the
fatalities of persons admitted to the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory over a two-year period. Understanding the magnitude
of the problem, identifying the most commonly injured area and the mechanism of death in cases where the patient died in
hospital could aid in the clinical management of some of these cases in order to reduce mortality.
METHOD : A retrospective descriptive case audit was conducted at the Pretoria Medico-Legal Laboratory from January 2012
through to December 2013.
RESULTS : A total of 173 applicable cases were included. These comprised 5% of the annual case load. Most of the injured
persons were male (84%) and aged 21–30 years (50%). Only 27 (16%) decedents were hospitalised and 12 (44%) survived
for ≥ 1 day. The most predominantly injured area on the body was the thoracic area (65% of cases). Positive alcohol
concentration in the blood was reported in 109 (66%) cases (a range of 0.01 g/100ml to 0.35 g/100ml). Exsanguination was
the leading mechanism of death (85% of cases).
CONCLUSION : Compared with various international regions, an exceptionally higher percentage of these fatalities occur in
Pretoria, South Africa. Most stab wounds penetrated the body’s thoracic region, consequently perforating the heart and
lungs, resulting in immediate death. The proportion of hospital fatalities of patients who sustained abdominal and extremity
injuries, and who had already survived ≥ 1 day, was a worrying finding into which further research is required. It is surprising
that these patients mostly succumbed to blood loss.