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Logo of postmedjPostgraduate Medical JournalVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Postgrad Med J. 2002 December; 78(926): 732–735.
PMCID: PMC1757926

Shaken baby syndrome


Shaken baby syndrome is the most common cause of death or serious neurological injury resulting from child abuse. It is specific to infancy, when children have unique anatomic features. Subdural and retinal haemorrhages are markers of shaking injury. An American radiologist, John Caffey, coined the name whiplash shaken infant syndrome in 1974. It was, however, a British neurosurgeon, Guthkelch who first described shaking as the cause of subdural haemorrhage in infants. Impact was later thought to play a major part in the causation of brain damage. Recently improved neuropathology and imaging techniques have established the cause of brain injury as hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy. Diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging is the most sensitive and specific method of confirming a shaking injury. Families of children with subdural haemorrhages should be thoroughly investigated by social welfare agencies.

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