Shaken Baby Syndrome

By Mellissa Correia

Description:

Shaken baby syndrome of SBS is the most common form of abusive head trauma. When a child's head is shaken back and forth, his or her brain bumps against the skull, causing bruising, pressure, swelling and bleeding in and around the brain. Bleeding typically occurs in the retina which is a portion of the eye that transmits images to the brain.


A child with SBS may also have a damaged neck or spinal cord and could also possibly have bone fractures. The severity depends on how long and hard the child was shaken but it can also cause death.


SBS occurs to children under the age of one but can sometimes occur to kids as old as 5.

Causes:

Purposely and violently moving a child's upper body in a back-and-forth motion. Usually caused by a caregiver.


Can also sometimes occur after direct blows to the head or dropping or throwing a child.

Generally occurs from....

- A parent of care giver who cannot get a baby to stop crying and so out of frustration/anger he or she will shake the baby.


[The baby wIll usually cry more and then stop crying due to damage to the brain]


- 70% of the time, the perpetrator is a male. Either the father of the child or the mother's boyfriend. Although, anyone will perform this activity if they are unable to handle stressful situations well or if they suffer from substance abuse.

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Diagnosis:

Usually (if the child is brought in) the child will be brought in as a "silent injury" meaning that the parents or caregiver don't provide a history or tell the doctors about the head trauma. This usually causes a doctor to not identify the situation properly.


Most of the time, children are never taken to the doctor which can cause future problems as the child has a higher risk of being shaken again.


Doctors will look for:


skull fractures

swelling of the brain

rib and long bone fractures

bruises around head, neck or chest



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Symptoms:

Less Severe:


irritability

vomiting

poor swallowing

cardiac arrest

decreased appetite

lack of smiling or vocalizing

seizures

difficulty breathing

blue colour due to lack of oxygen

altered consciousness

unequal pupil size

inability to life the head

inability to focus the eyes or track movement


Severe:

unconsciousness

suffering seizures or in shock

death

coma

posture in which the head is bent back and the back arched


**Children may never be brought to medical attention unless the symptoms are severe**

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Treatment:

If symptoms include difficulty in breathing the child will be treated with oxygen therapy and/or a ventilator.


A neurosurgeon may treat bleeding and sometimes surgery is needed.


other times, a cast is applies to broken bones, cuts are stitched or bandaged.


A child with seizures may be prescribed anticonvulsant medicine

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Prognosis

Prognosis varies with severity but many cases are fatal or lead to severe neurological deficits. Typicall, surviving babies many develop any one of these:


Cerebral palsy

Paralysis

Vision loss or blindness

Epilepsy

Seizures

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Prevention

Take a deep breath and calmly wait before reacting

Let your baby cry alone for a while

Call someone close to help

Call a paediatrician because there may be a reason for the child's crying

Never leave your child with someone who isn't fully trusted

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Support Groups/Website Resources