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An overview of Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken baby syndrome)

  • Posted on- Nov 23, 2015
  • 333 Views

Abusive head trauma or shaken baby syndrome is a medical condition that occurs to a child when an abuser violently shakes the kid in a motion similar to a whiplash motion, in order to either threaten the child or stop his/her cry. This type of violent shaking causes acceleration and deceleration injuries to the child. The inside of the child's brain is completely shaken, and the internal injuries can cause severe brain damage or death of the infant.

Babies have weak neck muscles and a comparatively heavier head that makes it hard for them to balance (keep their head straight/upright). If a baby is shaken violently, it causes the brain to collide on the internal wall of the skull. The collisions may cause bruises, bleeding, or swelling of the brain, and the condition can lead to serious damage, lifelong disability, and immediate death in some cases. In a few cases, bleeding in the brain can cause haemorrhage, blood in the eye, etc.

Causes of Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)

As mentioned earlier, this disorder is caused due to the violent shaking of the infant in accelerated and decelerated motion, which is a result of an act by an abuser. Generally, irritation or frustration is the main cause that leads the abuser to do such an act. Sometimes, it can be the result of an accident while playing, or while doing any other activity.

Symptoms of Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)

  • Internal bleeding in the brain (brain haemorrhage, retinal haemorrhage, etc.)
  • Damage to the ribs or spinal cord
  • Fractures on the long bones and vertebrae
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Problems related to respiration
  • Stopping of crying after being shaken violently (due to internal damage to the brain and vital tissues)
  • Permanent disability
  • Sluggishness, drowsiness, vomiting, and problems related to appetite
  • Loss of consciousness, breathing problems or no response to sounds or any movement in front of his/her eye (immediately after being shaken violently)
  • Coma
  • Seizure and irregular heartbeats
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Impaired vision
  • Blindness, paralysis, and hearing loss (immediately after shaking violently)
  • Inability to lift or move the head
  • Difference in pupils of both the eyes

Diagnosis of Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)

Abusive head trauma or shaken baby syndrome is somehow difficult to diagnose, as the symptoms are also seen only when the child is suffering from any other conditions, such as mental retardation, brain and retinal haemorrhage, blindness, hearing loss, etc. It can be diagnosed based on the primary symptoms, such as sluggishness, failure to respond to sounds and movements in front of the eyes, brain and retinal haemorrhage, broken ribs, arm, or leg bones, breathing problems, etc. The internal injuries to the brain, bleeding, fractures in bones, etc., can be confirmed with the help of medical imaging, such as MRI and CT scan.

Treatment of Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)

Treatment is decided depending upon the condition, symptoms, and severity. Brain injuries, serious problems, such as hearing loss, breathing problem, frequent loss of consciousness, mental imbalance, internal injuries, and internal bleeding are treated with the help of medication and surgery (wherever possible). In some cases, if the syndrome is mild, the injuries and medical conditions caused are allowed to heal with time.

How to prevent Abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome)

Try to understand the fact that babies can express their problems only through crying there is no other way for them to tell you what they want or if anything is troubling them. The caretaker should not be someone who loses his/her temper very fast and has very low tolerance. They should understand that babies need care, and it is in their nature to cry in fact, babies who do not cry may have some problem. Do not let someone who is not good with children to baby-sit your kid, as she can hurt him/her. If your child starts crying late at night or cries without any reason for a long time, do not get frustrated. Instead, learn the techniques to soothe your baby so that it won't lead to frustration when he/she starts crying. Sometimes, children do not respond to soothing. In such situations, the caretaker should still make sure that the child is taken utmost care of.