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Forensic Sci Int. 2005 Jun 30;151(1):71-9.

Shaken baby syndrome: a biomechanics analysis of injury mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, A1036 F. Edward H├ębert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services, University of the Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA. f.bandak@usuhs.mil

Abstract

Traumatic infant shaking has been associated with the shaken baby syndrome (SBS) diagnosis without verification of the operative mechanisms of injury. Intensities for SBS have been expressed only in qualitative, unsubstantiated terms usually referring to acceleration/deceleration rotational injury and relating to falls from great heights onto hard surfaces or from severe motor vehicle crashes. We conducted an injury biomechanics analysis of the reported SBS levels of rotational velocity and acceleration of the head for their injury effects on the infant head-neck. Resulting forces were compared with experimental data on the structural failure limits of the cervical spine in several animal models as well as human neonate cadaver models. We have determined that an infant head subjected to the levels of rotational velocity and acceleration called for in the SBS literature, would experience forces on the infant neck far exceeding the limits for structural failure of the cervical spine. Furthermore, shaking cervical spine injury can occur at much lower levels of head velocity and acceleration than those reported for the SBS. These findings are consistent with the physical laws of injury biomechanics as well as our collective understanding of the fragile infant cervical spine from (1) clinical obstetric experience, (2) automotive medicine and crash safety experience, and (3) common parental experience. The findings are not, however, consistent with the current clinical SBS experience and are in stark contradiction with the reported rarity of cervical spine injury in children diagnosed with SBS. In light of the implications of these findings on child protection and their social and medico-legal significance, a re-evaluation of the current diagnostic criteria for the SBS and its application is suggested.

PMID:
15885948
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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