Child Abuse Shaken Baby Syndrome

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Shaken baby syndrome is a form of childabuse that involves repeated shaking of a baby. The back and forthmovement causes the brain to slam against the skull, resulting in a head injury.

What are the causes and risks of the injury?

In nearly all cases, shaken baby syndrome is caused by shaking the babyviolently back and forth. A baby’s head is much heavier than the rest of his orher body. The neck muscles are very weak. As the child develops, the neckmuscles become stronger. Older children are better able to control the head sodamage to the brain does not occur as easily.

Shaken baby syndrome can occur in all races, cultures, and socioeconomicgroups. Males are more likely than females to be abusers. Males in their early20’s who are the baby’s father or mother’s significant other are oftenidentified as the perpetrator. Females who cause shaken baby syndrome are moreoften child care providers, rather than the child’s mother.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

A victim of shaken baby syndrome may show any or all of the following signs andsymptoms:

  • autism
  • bone fracture
  • change in behavior
  • cognitive impairment
  • coma
  • decreased level of consciousness
  • hearing impairment
  • irritability
  • learning disabilities
  • loss of appetite, orpoor feeding
  • communication\ \education, including reading, writing, and basic math\ \motor function\ \personal care, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting\ \social skills\ \thinking skills, such as decision making, problem solving, and self-direction\ \working\mental retardation
  • inability to move about as easily as others\ \limited movement of arms or legs\ \decrease in strength or control of the muscles and bones\ \abnormal or impaired coordination\ \medical condition requiring bed rest\ motor impairment
  • pale and bluish skin due to decreased blood flow
  • seizures
  • visual impairment
  • vomiting
  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the injury recognized?

    The diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome is usually made by an eye exam. This examis done by a healthcare professional who is skilled at viewing the eye. A childwho has been shaken will have bleeding in the eyes.

    The healthcare provider may also order a cranial CT scan or cranial MRI. These special X-ray tests may show damage tothe brain, including bleeding and bruising.

    Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the injury?

    Shaken baby syndrome usually occurs when a caregiver gets angry and losescontrol. Some steps to help avoid shaken baby syndrome include the following:

  • Never shake a baby or child in either play or anger.
  • Do not take anger out on a child. Seek help to control anger, ifnecessary.
  • Call someone to come and assist with the child and take a time-out.
  • Anyone who suspects child abuse should contact local authorities immediately. Ifnecessary, the child can be placed in protective custody away from the abusivesituation.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the injury?

    It is most important to remove the child from the abusive situation. This mayrequire calling local authorities so that the child can be removed by thepolice or by healthcare officials.

    If the child has stopped breathing, cardiopulmonaryresuscitation, also called CPR, should be started. When performing first aidalone, a person should shout for help, then begin first aid. If possible, havesomeone call for medical assistance.

    Once the child has been placed in a safe situation, a number of people will beinvolved in the care of the child. Care from doctors, nurses, and therapistswill be necessary to treat damage to the eyes and brain.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    There are few side effects of treatment. Many people are afraid to notify theauthorities if they suspect childabuse, which is the biggest risk to an infant who is being abused.If authorities are not notified in time, the child may suffer permanentdisability or even die.

    What happens after treatment for the injury?

    There could be several long-term effects caused by brain and eye damage. Thesechildren will need long-term follow up for these injuries. Law enforcement willbe involved if the abuser can be identified. Any new or worsening symptomsshould be reported to the healthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral