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Can J Ophthalmol. 2001 Dec;36(7):377-83; discussion 383-4.

The spectrum of postmortem ocular findings in victims of shaken baby syndrome.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of Ottawa Eye Institute, Ottawa Hospital, Ont.



Ophthalmologists and ocular pathologists are called on to help identify children who have undergone violent shaking. The objective of this study was to describe the spectrum of postmortem ocular findings in victims of shaken baby syndrome and to correlate the ocular findings with the nonocular features found at autopsy.


The ocular pathology registry at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute was reviewed to identify all victims of fatal shaken baby syndrome whose eyes had been submitted for examination between Apr. 1, 1971, and Dec. 31, 1995. Autopsy reports were accessed from the hospital charts of the identified patients.


Six patients, aged 1 to 34 months, were identified. Intraocular findings ranged from a focal globular hemorrhage at the posterior pole to extensive intraocular hemorrhage involving the entire retina with perimacular folds. All the children had evidence of optic nerve sheath hemorrhage. Nonocular findings included intracranial hemorrhage (in all cases), skull fracture (in two), rib fractures (in three) and high spinal cord hemorrhage (in four). The extent of the intraocular hemorrhage was not consistent with the nonocular findings.


Abused children may display a range of postmortem ocular findings, with intraocular hemorrhage varying from minimal to severe. These findings may not correlate with the severity of the child's other injuries. The presence of any retinal or optic nerve sheath hemorrhage in an infant, in the absence of an appropriate explanation for these findings, should raise suspicion of child abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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