Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (cont.)
Clinical Features of SIDS
Sudden infant death syndrome remains an unpredictable, unpreventable, and largely inexplicable tragedy. The baby is seemingly healthy without any sign of distress or significant illness prior to the incident.
- Death occurs rapidly while the infant is sleeping.
- Typically, it is a silent event. The baby does not cry.
- The infant usually appears to be well developed, well nourished, and is generally felt to be in good health prior to death. Minor upper respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms are not uncommon in the last two weeks preceding SIDS.
When to Seek Medical Care
Finding an infant pulseless and not breathing is an emergency. Call 911, and begin basic infant CPR.
Exams and Tests for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
SIDS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other causes of death must be ruled out. The cause of an infant's death can be determined only through a process of collecting information and conducting sometimes-complex forensic tests and procedures. All other recognizable causes of death are investigated prior to making the diagnosis of SIDS.
Four major avenues of investigation aid in the determination of a SIDS death: postmortem lab tests, autopsy, death-scene investigation, and the review of victim and family case history.
- Postmortem laboratory tests are done to rule out other causes of death (for example, electrolytes are checked to rule out dehydration and electrolyte imbalance; cultures are obtained to evaluate whether an infection was present). In SIDS, these laboratory tests are generally not revealing.
- An autopsy provides clues as to the cause of death. In some sudden, unexpected infant deaths, specific abnormalities of the brain or central nervous system, the heart or lungs, or infection may be identified as the cause of death. The autopsy findings in SIDS victims are typically subtle and yield only supportive, rather than conclusive, findings to explain SIDS.
- A thorough investigation of the death scene consists of interviewing the parents, other caregivers, and family members, collecting items from the death scene, and evaluating that information. A detailed scene investigation may reveal a recognizable and possibly preventable cause of death.
- A parent or caregiver may be asked these questions:
- Where was the baby discovered?
- What position was the baby in?
- When was the baby last checked? Last fed?
- How was the baby sleeping?
- Where there any recent signs of illness?
- Was the infant taking any medication, either prescription or over the counter?
- You should let your doctor know about any family or infant medical history. It is important to note that family history would include any previous history of unexplained infant death, sudden cardiac death, or metabolic or genetic disorders, for example.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/22/2016
Must Read Articles Related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Autopsy is a medical procedure that involves the examination of a deceased persons body. The word autopsy is derived from the Greek word autopsia, which means "...learn more >>
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a procedure a person can use to assist a person who is in cardiac arrest. Providing CPR to a person who is in cardiac a...learn more >>
Grief and Bereavement
Grief is our personal experience of loss. Mourning is a public expression of our grief. Bereavement is the period after a loss during which mourning occurs (usu...learn more >>