Shaken Baby Syndrome - Topic Overview
Shaken baby syndrome
can be hard to detect, because often there aren't clear signs of abuse. A baby
may vomit, have a poor appetite, or be fussy or sluggish. These symptoms may at
first seem related to an infection, such as the flu or
meningitis. Sadly, you may not find out that shaken
baby syndrome caused your child's injury until repeated abuse or more severe
Doctors check for shaken baby syndrome in several
ways. They ask for a child's medical history. They may also do a physical exam
and blood tests. Imaging tests such as
CT scan, or an
MRI can look for bleeding or other
injury in the brain.
A doctor may also do tests to rule out other conditions.
For example, a
lumbar puncture checks a baby's spinal fluid for signs
of meningitis. Blood found in this sample could point to a shaking
A doctor who suspects shaken baby
syndrome must report it to the local child welfare office and police.
If you suspect child abuse and the child is not in immediate danger, call
local child protective services or the police. Do not confront the person who
may have abused the child. This may cause more harm to the child.
A child with shaken baby
syndrome needs to be in the hospital, sometimes in an intensive care unit
Oxygen therapy may be used to help the child breathe.
Doctors may give the child medicine to help ease brain swelling. Sometimes a
cooling mattress will help lower the child's body temperature and reduce brain
swelling too. A child who has severe bleeding in the brain may need
Depending on the symptoms, doctors may try seizure
medicine, physical therapy, or other treatments.
Children can die from their injuries. Those who survive
may have brain and vision problems that can last forever. These problems can
- Seizures, which are sudden bursts of abnormal
electrical activity in the brain. A baby may have uncontrolled muscle movement
and be unable to speak, see, or interact normally.
- Cerebral palsy, with muscle stiffness (spasticity)
that results in stiff, awkward movements.
- Intellectual disabilities that can affect every area of a
child's life, such as learning to talk or being able to care for himself or
herself in the future.
- Blindness or trouble seeing.
- Physical or emotional growth delays.
- Learning or
behavior problems that may not appear until the child starts school.
Frequently Asked Questions