Narrowed Arteries Implicated in SIDS

From the WebMD Archives

April 29, 2002 -- Researchers have pinpointed at least one reason that may explain why infants are more likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome when lying on their stomachs. A new study suggests putting infants to sleep on their stomachs can lead to a potentially dangerous condition that affects blood flow to the brain.

Researchers say some infants may turn their heads so far to either side while sleeping that it narrows the arteries that supply blood to the brain, known as the vertebral arteries.

"We found that 71% of the children diagnosed with SIDS and 29% of the other infants had narrowed vertebral arteries when they were put on their stomach and their neck was rotated to the left or right," says study author Stefan Puig, MD, of the University of Vienna in Austria, in a news release.

Puig presented the study today at the annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society in Atlanta.

Although this study suggests that the narrowing of this artery could be a factor in SIDS, researchers say this condition may be dangerous for any infant sleeping on his or her stomach.

Researchers say infants are able to turn their heads further to the left or right than older children or adults because their ligaments and bone structure are not fully formed and don't limit their movement as much.

"Our study underlines the possible danger of [stomach] sleeping and supports the recent international efforts encouraging parents to have their infants sleep on their backs," says Puig.