Shaken baby Syndrome: Re-examination of diffuse axonal injury as cause of death

Manfred Oehmichen*, Daniela Schleiss, Ingo Pedal, Klaus Steffen Saternus, Ivana Gerling, Christoph Meissner

*Korrespondierende/r Autor/-in für diese Arbeit
26 Zitate (Scopus)


The discussion surrounding shaken baby syndrome (SBS) arose from the lack of evidence implicating diffuse axonal injury (DAI) as a cause of death. It was assumed instead that injury to the cervical cord, medulla, and nerve roots played a causal role. The present pathomorphological study examines 18 selected infants (<1-year-old) whose deaths were highly suspicious for SBS, exhibiting the classical SBS triad of acute subdural hemorrhage (SDH), retinal bleeding, and encephalopathy. Gross autopsy and microscopic findings of these infants were compared with those of 19 victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS; control group 1) and of 14 infants who died of disease or injuries/violence not involving the head, neck or eyes (control group 2). Symptoms of mechanical impact to the head were evident in seven of the SBS infants, but in none of the control infants. DAI was not detected in either the SBS or control cases. Localized axonal injury (AI) was regularly present in the brains of the SBS infants surviving longer than 1.5-3.0 h, but only occasionally in the craniocervical junction and within the nerve roots of the upper cervical cord; it was never present in the medulla. Epidural hemorrhage of the cervical cord was seen in four of the ten examined SBS cases, but in none of the control cases. Based on the absence of DAI in the brain and of signs of generalized cervical cord or nerve root injuries, we conclude that the cause of death in the SBS victims was a global cerebral ischemia secondary to SDH, focal vasospasm, trauma-induced transitory respiratory and/or circulatory failure.

ZeitschriftActa Neuropathologica
Seiten (von - bis)317-329
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 27.03.2008


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