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J Ky Med Assoc. 2007 Aug;105(8):343-53.

Is SIDS on the rise??

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Office of the Associate Chief Medical Examiner, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA.



Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as a diagnosis of exclusion, after an evaluation of the medical history, complete postmortem examination, and scene investigation. The diagnosis of SIDS in many sudden and unexplained infant deaths has not been consistently applied nationally or, prior to July 2003, in the state of Kentucky. In order to better standardize practices in formulating the diagnosis of SIDS in cases of sudden and unexpected infant deaths, all of the Kentucky medical examiners formed a working group to collectively standardize the classification of this enigmatic type of infant death.


We conducted a retrospective review (2000-2004) of infants < 1 year who underwent complete historical review, circumstantial investigation, postmortem examination, and toxicological analysis performed at the Medical Examiners' Offices in Kentucky encompassing all deaths certified as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, positional asphyxia, overlay, and undetermined cause and manner of death.


A total of 417 cases were deemed sudden unexplained infant deaths after postmortem examination at the Medical Examiners' Offices in Kentucky between 2000 and 2004. A total of 237 (56.8%) infants had been bedsharing with at least one other person when found. Prior to the SIDS classification policy change in July 2003, a significantly greater number of sudden unexpected infant death cases were deemed undetermined in both cause and manner in contrast to a smaller number classified as SIDS. After the policy change, the number of deaths classified as SIDS greatly surpassed the number classified as undetermined.


The increase in the number of deaths consistent with SIDS and a reciprocal decline in cases reported as undetermined cause and manner of death in Kentucky is due to the uniformity and standardization of terminology, rather than an actual increase in the number of infant deaths. The Kentucky policy in July 2003 has been invaluable in ensuring uniform criteria in the diagnosis of SIDS and other categories of sudden unexpected death in infants < 1 year.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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