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Shaken baby syndrome (SBS), also commonly referred to as abusive head trauma, or less commonly as shaken impact syndrome, is the leading cause of grave neurological injury or death in physically abused children. SBS is the end result of violently shaking infants.
The forces generated create injuries that possess very specific features due to the unique anatomy of infants, whose heads are larger and heavier in proportion to the rest of their bodies.
Retinal and subdural hemorrhages are pathognomonic for SBS. However, other extreme consequences, such as blindness, hearing loss, seizures, mental retardation, and paralysis may also be seen.
Babies with SBS may present with poor feeding, lethargy, vomiting, irritability, and dyspnea (i.e. difficult breathing) among other symptoms.
Scans of the brain with imaging techniques are required to make a definitive diagnosis.
These infants require emergency treatment, because SBS is a life-threatening condition. In addition to emergency surgery to stop hemorrhaging, respiratory support will be required.
Despite treatment, many infants who survive will suffer long-term effects and as a result need medical attention for the rest of their lives. Thus, no matter how much a baby cries, parents should never ever be tempted to shake that baby.