Send to

Choose Destination
Forensic Sci Int. 2002 Sep 14;130 Suppl:S8-20.

Sudden infant deaths: from epidemiology to physiology.

Author information

Pediatric Sleep Unit, University Children's Hospital of Brussels, Free University of Brussels, av.JJ Crocq 15, B-1020 Brussels, Belgium.


The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has dropped significantly in most countries following the development of education campaigns on the avoidance of risk factors for SIDS. However, questions have been raised about the physiological mechanism responsible for the effects of these environmental risk factors. Since 1985, a series of prospective, multicentric studies have been developed to address these questions; over 20,000 infants were recorded during one night in a sleep laboratory and among these, 40 infants eventually died of SIDS. In this review, the following methods were employed: sleep recordings and analysis, monitoring procedure, data analysis of sleep stages, cardiorespiratory and oxygen saturation, scoring of arousals, spectral analysis of the heart rate and the determination of arousal thresholds, and statistical analysis and the results including sleep apneas, arousals and heart rate and autonomic controls in both future SIDS victims and normal infants were introduced separately. In addition, the physiological effect of prenatal risk factors (maternal smoking during gestation) and postnatal risk factors (administration of sedative drugs, prone sleeping position, ambient temperature, sleeping with the face covered by a bed sheet, pacifiers and breastfeeding) in normal infants were analyzed. In conclusion, the physiological studies undertaken on the basis of epidemiological findings provide some clues about the physiological mechanisms linked with SIDS. Although the description of the mechanisms responsible for SIDS is still far from complete, it appears to involve both arousal responses and cardiac autonomic controls during sleep-wake processes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center