Shaken baby syndrome is a type of abusive brain injury that occurs when the infant or toddler is violently shaken by his arms, shoulder or legs. The repeated acceleration and deceleration force can cause hemorrhage in brain and in retina of eye. Sometimes there may be associated multiple fractures in long bones without any external evidence of head injury.
Causes of Shaken Baby Syndrome:
Shaken baby syndrome mostly occurs in infants, especially below 4 to 5 months. In infants the neck muscles are not strong enough and hence the baby struggles to hold his neck.
Parents having these risk factors are more likely to abuse their infants that may result in shaken baby syndrome.
- Parents have unrealistic expectation from the child
- Parent who lives in social isolation.
- With psychiatric problem.
- Person himself has past history of experiencing child abuse at the hands of others.
- Parent having habit of substance abuse or alcoholism
- The child who is crying constantly in at greater risk of this condition.
- Twin babies or disabled child.
Symptoms of Shaken Baby Syndrome:
The infant or the child who is vigorously shaken and if he has suffered internal brain damage, he may present with following symptoms:
- Repeated profuse vomiting, sometime even projectile vomiting
- Increased irritation
- Feeding problem
- Bulging fontanel and large forehead. Fontanel is a soft groove that is felt when you touch baby’s scalp. Due to swelling the fontanel will become pronounced and bulging.
- The child is not able to lift his neck.
Shaken baby syndrome can have grave consequences that may be permanent at times. These complications may be caused due to injury to the brain. Mental retardation, blindness due to damage to the retina, seizures, hearing loss, damage to the spinal cord, fracture of long bones etc are some of the complications that may arise from shaken baby syndrome.
Shaken baby syndrome is difficult to diagnose as the pediatrician in majority of cases may not know whether violent shaking was involved to produce symptoms of this condition. If suspected several tests will help to recognize the damage and its intensity. MRI of brain, X-ray, retinal examination etc are few important medical and radiological tests that may be useful.
Shaken baby syndrome needs urgent medical attention. The caregiver or parent whoever concerned must take the child to emergency room if the infant has been violently shaken. Most often the adult may not tell the truth. They may inform the doctor that the baby has fallen. Treatment is started depending on the symptoms. In case of acute symptoms the child needs to be admitted and given all the necessary primary treatment to stabilize the vital signs such as breathing, pulse and heart rate etc. If there is severe bleeding in the brain, surgery may be needed to stop the bleeding. Sometimes the symptoms may develop later in life such as attention deficit, behavioral problem etc.