Pediatricians adopt new term for shaken baby abuse

Apr 27, 2009 By LINDSEY TANNER , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics wants doctors to stop using the term "shaken baby syndrome" in favor of something more scientific.

The nation's largest pediatricians' group recommends "abusive head trauma," calling it a more comprehensive diagnosis for brain, skull and spinal injuries associated with shaking and other head injuries inflicted on infants.

The academy says the new diagnostic term should be used in medical records and that it may provide more clarity in the courtroom.

Some defense attorneys and doctors believe shaken baby syndrome doesn't exist, arguing that it's impossible to shake babies hard enough to cause brain injuries without breaking their necks. But that argument is based on faulty evidence and is not shared by most physicians who specialize in treating child abuse, said Dr. Robert Block, former chairman of an academy committee on child abuse.

The National Institutes of Health says shaking can cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding, "which can lead to permanent, severe or death."

Block said legal challenges to the term "shaken baby syndrome" can detract from more important questions about whether abuse occurred. The new term can avoid that problem, he said.

"In no way does this change the position of the academy" about the potentially fatal risks of shaking an infant, said Block, a pediatrics professor at the University of Oklahoma's community medicine school in Tulsa.

The pediatrics academy recommends the new terminology in a policy statement being published in the May issue of its journal, Pediatrics.

Dr. Cindy Christian, a co-author of the policy statement and a child abuse researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said evidence shows babies can be injured by severe shaking alone but sometimes they have head injuries caused by other abuse as well.

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome says an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 U.S. children are injured or killed by shaking each year, but that the number may be much higher since many cases likely are not detected.

The advocacy group also uses the umbrella term "abusive head trauma," but says shaking is the leading cause of death in these cases.

The pediatricians' new policy says doctors should be alert to signs of head trauma that could include abusive shaking. Doctors also should teach parents safe ways to calm fussy babies and how to avoid the dangers of shaking, the policy advises.

Marilyn Barr, executive director of the center on shaken baby syndrome, praised the academy for "trying to clear murky waters."

---

On the Net:

Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/

NIH: http://tinyurl.com/38d8vd

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Planning for the move from children's to adult palliative care

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Leading experts investigate Shaken Baby Syndrome

Apr 10, 2008

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), also known as childhood neurotrauma or inflicted traumatic brain injury, is the leading cause of death from childhood maltreatment. Unlike many types of child abuse, the action that causes SBS ...

Recommended for you

Planning for the move from children's to adult palliative care

12 minutes ago

The differences between children's and adult palliative care services are too wide for young people with life-limiting conditions to negotiate, according to research by Bangor University. Commenting on the findings, the researchers ...

Improving clinical pain management practices

52 minutes ago

Oncologists treat cancer, neurologists specialise in brain disorders, immunologists diagnose infectious diseases, and a host of other specialists tackle ailments from broken bones to ruptured arteries. But ...

Train your brain to prefer healthy foods

55 minutes ago

"I can resist anything except temptation." Anyone who has ever been on a diet can relate to that quip from Oscar Wilde. No matter what the fad diet du jour says, the only way to lose weight is to reduce the net number of ...

User comments : 0