The knowledge about the diffuse axonal injury (DAI) as a clinicopathological entity has matured in the last 30 years. It has been defined clinically (immediate and prolonged unconsciousness leading to death or severe disability) and pathologically (the triad of DAI specific changes). In terms of its biomechanics, DAI is occurring as a result of acceleration forces of longer duration and has been fully reproduced experimentally.
In the process of diagnosing DAI, the performance of a complete forensic neuropathological examination is essential and the immunohistochemistry method using antibodies against β-amyloid precursor protein (β-APP) has been proved to be highly sensitive and specific, selectively targeting the damaged axons.
In this review, we are pointing to the significant characteristics of DAI as a distinct clinicopathological entity that can cause severe impairment of the brain function, and in the forensic medicine setting, it can be found as the concrete cause of death. We are discussing not only its pathological feature, its mechanism of occurrence, and the events on a cellular level but also the dilemmas about DAI that still exist in science: (1) regarding the strict criteria for its diagnosis and (2) regarding its biomechanical significance, which can be of a big medicolegal importance.