Restriction of respiratory movements
This is also known as traumatic or positional
asphyxia, although it is actually a misnomer as no signs of trauma have to be
present. Mechanical asphyxia is a more appropriate term.
In this condition movement of the chest is
restricted. This may occur when the chest, and usually also the abdomen, is
compressed. Movement of the chest and diaphragm muscles is therefore prevented
or restricted, and inspiration cannot occur. This may occur when the chest is
compressed by soil or other material/objects, including a vehicle. In recent
years disasters occurred at a number of sporting and other events (eg at Ellis
Park, Johannesburg) when a panicking or excited crowd pushed forward and
individuals were trapped against gates or other obstructions during the
stampede. A comparable situation is where an intoxicated person loses
consciousness while in a position where the head is lower than the rest of the
body, and the intestines press downwards on the diaphragm, restricting its
movement. Cases were also reported where an intruder climbs over a high fence,
and then falls in such a way that his feet are caught in the security spikes on
top of the fence. In this upside-down position, the downward pressure of his
intestines on the diaphragm limits inhalation. Inhalation against this
gravity-effect on the diaphragm is tiring, and the individual eventually
develops ``asphyxia'' and dies.
Crucifixion is another example where someone
dies due to restriction of respiratory movement. During crucifixion in the
upright position, the chest is fixed in a state of inspiration. The individual
therefore struggles to exhale. If the individual is crucified upside down, the
intestines press on the diaphragm and the thoracic organs, and the individual
cannot inhale without effort.
In this group of asphyxic deaths post-mortem
signs, and especially the so-called signs of ``asphyxia'' are well developed,
with petechial haemorrhages, congestion and swelling present above the level
where the pressure was applied. Bleeding from the mouth and ears may also be
present, as well as congestion of the lungs. The skin may show wounds due to
the pressure of the object on the body.