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J Paediatr Child Health. 1999 Oct;35(5):432-3.

Suffocation, shaking or sudden infant death syndrome: can we tell the difference?

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State Forensic Science Center, Department of Pediatrics, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


Given that the diagnosis of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remains one of exclusion, problems still exist in distinguishing possible cases from those where the deaths were due to accidental or inflicted suffocation. The term 'SIDS' cannot be used unless a complete autopsy examination has been performed, augmented by review of the clinical history and examination of the death scene. In the absence of a cause of death, a more suitable designation in the presence of inflicted injury is 'undetermined' rather than 'SIDS'. Use of standard autopsy and death scene protocols that have been endorsed by professional bodies will improve the investigation of unexpected infant death and will increase the likelihood of diagnosing subtle disorders that may be confused with SIDS.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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