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What is shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is the name given to the many serious, and sometimes fatal, injuries and permanent disabilities that can occur when an infant is violently shaken. Shaken baby syndrome is a collective term for the internal head injuries a baby or young child sustains from being violently shaken. Because of the fragile state of an infant's brain tissue and

blood vessels, when a baby is vigorously shaken by the chest, as shown in the illustration above, the whiplash motion repeatedly jars the baby's brain with extreme force, causing serious internal damage and bleeding.

In shaken baby syndrome, the sudden and repeated vigorous shaking pitches the infant or child’s brain in different directions and causes parts of the brain to pull away, tearing brain cells and blood vessels. The force of shaking a child in anger and frustration is five to 10 times greater than if the child were to simply trip and fall. That force is repeated in succession as the child is being shaken.

Violent shaking is especially dangerous to infants and young children because their neck muscles are not fully developed and their brain tissue is exceptionally fragile. Their small size further adds to their risk of injury.

Men are more likely than women to shake a child; typically, these men are in their early 20s and are the baby's father or the mother's boyfriend. Women who inflict SBS are more likely to be babysitters or child care providers than the baby's mother. The shaking may occur as a response of frustration to the baby's inconsolable crying or as an action of routine abuse.

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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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005