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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2009 Sep;30(3):231-4. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318187e0f2.

Organ weights in cases of sudden infant death syndrome: a German study.

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  • 1Institute of Legal Medicine, University of Münster, Germany.


Despite its decreasing incidence, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) still remains an important cause of death in infancy. Since Felix Platter described the case of a child suffocated because of a massive goiter (Platter E. Suffocatio a struma interna abscondita, circa iugulum. Observationum in hominis affectibus plerisque corpori et animo, functionum lesione, dolore, aliave molestia et vitio incommodantibus. Libris tres, Part IX. Basel: König and Brandmylieri; 1614), many authors have attempted to verify the existence of a correlation between the dimensions of organs of infants and SIDS. The lack of recent published norms and the difficulty in finding a suitable control group by which to compare the cases of SIDS shows the importance of this study.This article presents the organ weights of 209 male and 132 female babies whose cause of death was SIDS. The data have been collected from 2 different studies: the Westphalian Cot Death Study from 1990 to 1994 and the German National Study on SIDS from 1998 to 2001. The organ weights increased from month to month during the first year of life showing a tendency towards higher weights in males compared with females (these are, however, not statistically significant). No significant differences compared with the recently published data of Thompson and Cohle, J Forensic Sci. 2004;49:575-585 were found.The heart weights were compared with a control group of 47 babies (21 females, 26 males) died because of both natural and unnatural causes. The weight of the organs that presented macro-microscopical pathologic changes was excluded.The weights of the heart were also compared with those published by Schulz and Giordano, Arch Pathol. 1962;74:464-471 and Kelmanson, Eur J Pediatr. 1996;155:440-444. This comparison showed minor differences which are discussed in the article. We suggest that organ weights obtained in SIDS cases can be used as norms in the first year of life.

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