Shaken Baby Syndrome (cont.)

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What are the symptoms and signs of shaken baby syndrome?

The injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome may not be immediately noticeable. Infants may present with nonspecific complaints, such as irritability or vomiting. These symptoms are caused by the developing increased pressure within the brain (intracranial pressure) caused by brain hemorrhages and swelling. These infants often develop additional symptoms, such as lethargy, breathing difficulties, and seizures.

What are the treatments for shaken baby syndrome?

Infants with injuries of shaken baby syndrome require emergency care, including respiratory support and surgery. Often these infants require draining of the blood around the brain to decrease the ongoing brain injuries associated with brain swelling. Additional treatments may be required as well, including obtaining ophthalmologic and neurological evaluations.

What is the prognosis for shaken baby syndrome?

Infants who have suffered injuries as a result of this type of child abuse have a poor prognosis. Of those infants who survive, many will have permanent brain damage, retinal injuries, and blindness as well as and neck and spinal injuries. Unfortunately, the damage to the nervous system is too frequently permanent.

Can shaken baby syndrome be caused accidentally?

Shaken baby syndrome is almost always a result of child abuse, often perpetrated by a parent or caregiver who shakes an infant angrily in response to persistent crying. In very rare cases, the injuries associated with shaken baby syndrome may be caused by accidental actions, such as jogging with a newborn baby in a backpack. It does not result from gentle play or bouncing a child on a knee. Even in those rare accidental cases, the injuries are rarely as severe as those cases associated with non-accidental trauma from shaken baby syndrome.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/15/2014

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