MYTH: Infants and toddlers diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome display clear signs of physical abuse.
FACT: The classic triad for shaken baby syndrome is subdural hematoma, cerebral edema, and retinal hemorrhages. But most infants diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome don't have observable signs of physical abuse. Possible signs include vomiting, poor feeding, lethargy, fussiness, and decreased interaction and age-appropriate verbalization. In severe cases, you may find decreased level of consciousness, respiratory distress, seizures, and circulatory collapse.
MYTH: Shaken baby syndrome occurs after multiple episodes of violent shaking and abuse.
FACT: Severe brain injury and death can be caused by a single violent episode of shaking. The most common reason for this violent shaking episode is caregiver frustration and anger over an infant's prolonged or inconsolable crying.
MYTH: Most survivors of shaken baby syndrome suffer no long-term impairments.
FACT: Most infants who survive shaken baby syndrome suffer some type of long-term neurologic or cognitive dysfunction. Inflicted head injury can lead to blindness, microcephaly, seizure disorders, learning disabilities, and, later in life, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and dementia.
MYTH: Measures taken by health care professionals haven't reduced the incidence of shaken baby syndrome.
FACT: Primary prevention programs have reduced the incidence of abusive head injuries by 47%. In these predischarge programs, nurses educate parents with newborns about the dangers of violent shaking and ways to cope with infant crying. Home visitation programs and programs targeting dads, such as Dads 101, also have proven effective at educating parents about shaken baby syndrome.
Dias MS, et al. Preventing abusive head trauma among infants and young children: A hospital-based, parent education program. Pediatrics. 115(4):e470-e477, April 2005.
Miehl NJ. Shaken baby syndrome. Journal of Forensic Nursing. 1(3):111-117, Fall 2005.
National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Dads 101. http://dontshake.com/Audience.aspx?categoryID=10&PageName=Dads101.htm. Accessed August 15, 2007.