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What causes shaken baby syndrome?

Infants and small children are especially vulnerable to shaken baby syndrome because their neck muscles are still too weak to adequately support their disproportionately large heads, and their young brain tissue and blood vessels are extremely fragile. When an infant is vigorously shaken by the arms, legs, shoulders, or chest, the whiplash motion repeatedly jars the baby's brain with tremendous force, causing internal damage and bleeding. While there may be no obvious external signs of injury following shaking, the child may suffer internally from brain bleeding and bruising (called subdural hemorrhage and hematoma); brain swelling and damage (called cerebral edema); mental retardation; blindness, hearing loss, paralysis, speech impairment, and learning disabilities; and death. Nearly 2,000 children die every year as a result of being shaken. Less frequently, shaken baby syndrome occurs when the parent or caregiver throws a small child into the air vigorously, plays too rough, or hits an infant too hard on the back, not realizing the seriousness of this behavior and the harm it can cause. Although the risk of shaken baby syndrome is lower in these situations, the danger still exists.

More information on shaken baby syndrome

What is shaken baby syndrome? - Shaken baby syndrome is a collective term for the internal head injuries a baby or young child sustains from being violently shaken.
What causes shaken baby syndrome? - Infants and small children are especially vulnerable to shaken baby syndrome because their neck muscles are still too weak to adequately support their disproportionately large heads.
What're the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome? - Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome include vomiting, difficulty breathing, sucking, swallowing, or making sounds, seizures, and altered consciousness.
How is a shaken baby syndrome diagnosed? - The diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is usually made by an eye exam. The diagnosis is confirmed by the results of either a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
What's the treatment for shaken baby syndrome? - Children with shaken baby syndrome may need physical therapy, speech therapy, vision therapy, and special education services.
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