Abnormal Development - Shaken Baby Syndrome

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Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is used to describe the spectrum of neurological (eye, brain, subdural haemorrhage) and other (skeletal) injuries resulting from forcibly shaking an infant.

NIH Information Sheet

What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is a severe form of head injury that occurs when a baby is shaken forcibly enough to cause the baby’s brain to rebound (bounce) against his or her skull. This rebounding may cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding (intracerebral hemorrhage) of the brain, which may lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death. The condition is usually the result of non-accidental trauma or child abuse. In rare instances it may be caused by tossing a baby in the air or jogging with a baby in a backpack. Symptoms may include changes in behavior, irritability, lethargy, loss of consciousness, pale or bluish skin, vomiting, and convulsions. Although there usually are no outward physical signs of trauma, there may be broken, injured, or dislocated bones and injuries to the neck and spine.

Is there any treatment?

Immediate emergency treatment is necessary and usually includes life-sustaining measures such as stopping internal bleeding and relieving increased intracranial pressure.

What is the prognosis?

Generally, the prognosis for children with shaken baby syndrome is poor. Most will be left with considerable disability. Retinal damage may cause loss of vision. If the child survives, he or she may require lifelong medical care for brain damage injuries such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy.

What research is being done?

The NINDS conducts and supports research on trauma-related disorders, including head injuries. Much of this research focuses on increasing scientific understanding of these disorders and finding ways to prevent and treat them.

Where can I find more information?

These articles, available from a medical library, are sources of in-depth information on shaken baby syndrome:

Alexander, R, et al. "Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Intracranial Injuries from Child Abuse." Journal of Pediatrics, 109:6; 975-979 (1986).

Frank, Y, et al. "Neurological Manifestations in Abused Children Who Have Been Shaken." Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 27; 312-316 (1985).

Joynt, R (ed). Clinical Neurology, vol. 3, Chapter 30, J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, p. 62 (1990).

Spaide, R, et al. "Shaken Baby Syndrome." American Family Physician, 41:4; 1145-1152 (April 1990).

Additional information is available from the following organization (last updated 3-6-00):

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Building 31, Room 2A32

Bethesda, MD 20892-2425

(301) 496-5133



Waney Squier The "Shaken Baby" syndrome: pathology and mechanisms. Acta Neuropathol.: 2011, 122(5);519-42 PubMed 21947257

Alex V Levin Retinal hemorrhage in abusive head trauma. Pediatrics: 2010, 126(5);961-70 PubMed 20921069

Rebecca Ashton Practitioner review: beyond shaken baby syndrome: what influences the outcomes for infants following traumatic brain injury? J Child Psychol Psychiatry: 2010, 51(9);967-80 PubMed 20524940


Vincy Chan, Pravheen Thurairajah, Angela Colantonio Defining pediatric traumatic brain injury using International Classification of Diseases Version 10 Codes: a systematic review. BMC Neurol: 2015, 15;7 PubMed 25648197

Wellingson S Paiva, Matheus S Soares, Robson L O Amorim, A Ferreira de Andrade, Hamilton Matushita, Manoel J Teixeira Traumatic brain injury and shaken baby syndrome. Acta Med Port: 2010, 24(5);805-8 PubMed 22525633

Tanya Charyk Stewart, Denise Polgar, Jason Gilliland, David A Tanner, Murray J Girotti, Neil Parry, Douglas D Fraser Shaken baby syndrome and a triple-dose strategy for its prevention. J Trauma: 2011, 71(6);1801-7 PubMed 22182892

A Laurent-Vannier, M Nathanson, F Quiriau, E Briand-Huchet, J Cook, T Billette de Villemeur, J Chazal, C Christophe, S Defoort-Dhellemmes, G Fortin, C Rambaud, J S Raul, C Rey-Salmon, F Sottet, E Vieux, M Vinchon, R Willinger, French Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, French National Authority for Health A public hearing "Shaken baby syndrome: guidelines on establishing a robust diagnosis and the procedures to be adopted by healthcare and social services staff". Guidelines issued by the Hearing Commission. Ann Phys Rehabil Med: 2011, 54(9-10);600-25 PubMed 22118914

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2015) Embryology Abnormal Development - Shaken Baby Syndrome. Retrieved November 25, 2015, from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Abnormal_Development_-_Shaken_Baby_Syndrome

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© Dr Mark Hill 2015, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G