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Minerva Pediatrica 2012 December;64(6):641-7


language: Italian

Shaken baby syndrome: pathogenetic mechanism, clinical features and preventive aspects

Vitale A. 1, Vicedomini D. 2, Vega G. R. 1, Greco N. 1, Messi G. 3

1 Unità Operativa di Pediatria e Pronto Soccorso, Pediatrico A.O.R.N. “San Giuseppe Moscati”, Avellino, Italia; 2 Pediatra di Famiglia, A.S.L. Napoli 1 Centro, Napoli, Italia; 3 IRCCS Materno Infantile “Burlo Garofolo”, Trieste, Italia


The shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is an extremely serious form of child abuse and a leading cause of death and disability in childhood. The syndrome usually occurs in infants younger than 1 year when a parent or a care-giver tries to stop the baby from crying by vigorous manual shaking. The repetitive oscillations with rotational acceleration of the head can result in injuries of both vascular and neuronal structures. The most frequent injuries associated with SBS include encepha-lopathy, retinal hemorrhages, and subdural hemorrhage. Fractures of the vertebrae, long bones, and ribs may also be associated with the syndrome. Victims of abuse have various presenting signs and symptoms ranging from irritability, decreased responsiveness and lethargy to convulsions, and death. Diagnosis is often difficult because usually parents or caregivers not tell the truth about what has happened to their child and because usually there is no external evidence of trauma. However, the syndrome might be suspected if the information provided are vague or changing and when the child presents with retinal hemorrhages, subdural hematoma, or fractures that cannot be explained by accidental trauma or other medical conditions. Of infants who are victims of SBS, approximately 15% to 38% die and 30% are at risk of long-term neurologic sequelae, including cognitive and behavioural disturbances, motor and visual deficits, learning deficits and epilepsy. Parents and caregivers must be warned about the dangers of shaking infants.

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