Shaken Baby Syndrome
(Shaken Impact Syndrome)
DefinitionShaken baby syndrome is a group of symptoms in babies or small children. The symptoms are caused by injuries from a violent shaking or hit to the head. They may be temporary problems, severe disabilities, or death. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the type of injuries to the baby's brain.
CausesShaken baby syndrome is caused by shaking or jerking a baby or young child. Even a few seconds of shaking can injure a baby. Babies and young children are more vulnerable to injuries from this type of movement because:
- The neck muscles of young children, especially babies, are not strong. It can be tough for them to fully support their heavy heads or protect themselves from harsh movements.
- Baby's brains are more fragile than adults. Shaking movements can cause the brain to move back and forth inside their skulls. The movement can injure the brain and tear small blood vessels. The bleeding can affect the brain and the eyes.
|Brain Bruised from Whiplash—Similar Effect in Shaken Baby Syndrome|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Risk FactorsBoys are more likely to be abused in this way than girls. Other factors that may increase the chance of a shaking injury include a family history of:
- Domestic or child abuse
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- History of stress or social difficulties
SymptomsSymptoms can vary based on the severity of the injury. The injury depends on the length of time the baby is shaken or how hard the baby's head has hit a surface. Injuries caused by shaking are often extremely serious and can include:
- Failure-to-thrive—not growing as expected
- Poor feeding or vomiting
- Seizures or spasms
- Semi-consciousness or loss of consciousness—not fully awake or aware of surroundings
- Difficulty breathing
- Dilated or unresponsive pupils
- Swollen head
- Lethargy or irritability
- Bruising of the part of the body used as a handle for shaking
- Fractures of the arm bones, leg bones, and/or ribs
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