Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year
of age. If the child's death remains unexplained after a formal investigation into the circumstances of the death (including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history), the death is then attributed to SIDS. Sudden infant death is a tragic event for any parent or caregiver.
SIDS is suspected when a previously healthy infant, usually younger than 6 months
of age, is found dead in bed. In most cases, no sign of distress is identifiable. The baby typically feeds normally prior to being placed in bed to sleep. The infant is then discovered lifeless, without pulse or respiration. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be initiated at the scene, but evidence shows a lack of beneficial effect from CPR. The cause of death remains unknown despite a careful review of the medical history, scene investigation,
X-rays, and autopsy.
SIDS is rare during the first month of life. Risk
peaks in infants 2-4 months of age and then declines.
About 90% of SIDS deaths occur in infants younger than 6 months of age.
Even though the specific cause (or causes) of SIDS remains unknown, scientific efforts have eliminated several previously held theories. We now know the following about SIDS:
Apnea (cessation of breathing) of prematurity
and apnea of infancy are felt to be clinical conditions that are distinct from SIDS. Infants with apnea may be managed with electronic monitors prescribed by doctors that track heart rate and respiratory
activity. Apnea monitors will not prevent SIDS.
SIDS is not predictable or preventable.
Infants may experience episodes termed apparent life-threatening events (ALTEs). These are clinical events in which young infants may experience abrupt changes in breathing, color, or muscle tone. Common causes of ALTEs include
viral respiratory infection (RSV), gastroesophageal reflux disease, or seizure. However,
no definite scientific evidence links ALTEs as events that may lead to SIDS.
SIDS is not caused by immunizations or bad
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than 1 year that remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including the performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the scene of death, and review of the clinical history.