Symptoms and Signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS)

Shaken baby syndrome is a form of child abuse caused by vigorously shaking an infant, usually in anger, to get them to stop crying or whining. The violent shaking can result in life-threatening injuries, including severe and permanent brain injury, spinal cord injuries, bleeding in the eyes, blindness, and death in about 25% of cases. Victims of shaken baby syndrome are typically between 3 and 8 months old, but the abuse has also been reported in newborns and in children up to 4 years of age. 

Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome may not be immediately noticeable. Infants may have nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability or vomiting that results from increased pressure within the brain (intracranial pressure) caused by brain hemorrhages and swelling. Additional symptoms often develop, such as lethargy, breathing difficulties, and seizures. Always report any case of suspected child abuse.

What Is the Treatment for Shaken Baby Syndrome?

The treatment for shaken baby syndrome is dependent upon the type of trauma and injuries that have occurred. Of paramount importance is the removal of the infant from an abusive environment. Treatments are supportive and may include measures such as:

  • Neurosurgical procedures to reduce intracranial pressure or repair trauma
  • Repair of bone fractures
  • Evaluation and monitoring of retinal hemorrhages in the eye
  • Developmental evaluations to provide a baseline for follow-up and monitoring 
  • Monitoring for long-term side effects of head trauma


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.