Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) and Abusive/Non-accidental Head Trauma (AHT) are damaging conditions caused by intentional shaking and/or blunt trauma to the head of an infant or child.
Non-accidental head trauma, including Shaken Baby Syndrome, is the number one cause of death for children in child abuse cases. The abusive action of rapidly shaking an infant or child causes the sudden forward, backward and sideway motion of the head. During the shaking action, the brain is injured from hitting against the inside of the bony skull. This violent action causes inflammation, bleeding, separation of vessels and nerve fibers in the soft brain tissue on all sides of the brain.
The brain of an infant or child is very soft because it has more water content and it is easier to injure than an adult brain. Therefore, less energy is required to cause lethal injury to an infant or child’s brain. Significant injury may occur with just several seconds of shaking. Even sudden impact with soft objects like cushions, bedding, and mattresses may be injurious. If shaking occurs alone, there will be minimal outward signs of trauma, if any. However, if blunt trauma occurs during shaking, there will be more evidence of external injury. For example, if a caregiver throws or forcefully places an infant on a surface after shaking the baby for a few seconds, there may be evidence of blunt trauma from sudden deceleration and impact of the head against a surface.
In SBS, the eyes may get injured by the sudden increase in pressure and motion around the soft tissues that make up the delicate structure of the eyes. After the baby is shaken, the brain and the eyes bleed inside the confined spaces within which they are contained. This bleeding causes high pressure to build within the head and eyes. The damage caused by shaking the head, brain and eye structures and the increasing high pressure that follows may cause permanent injury or death for the infant or child.
Abusive/non-accidental head trauma (and associated injuries) occurs when the child is hit by an object, or impacts on object, and/or experiences significant force to the brain from speed and sudden deceleration. Keep in mind that the child’s non-accidental head trauma and brain injury may occur without actual physical contact with an object. Immediately following traumatic head injury, the child or infant (depending on the age of the child) may lose consciousness, have nausea, vomiting, confusion, slurred speech, have difficulty swallowing, respiratory problems, weakness, in one, or all, areas of the body and may also have convulsions. Symptoms may not be noticed right away, and may have a gradual onset. Behavioral or mood changes are sometimes the only symptoms.
If the child survives the injuries, the symptoms may change over the course of several years from the assault. As the child grows and develops to the ages where higher functioning skills are expected, the true measure of the disabilities the child experiences will become evident. It is common for infants that are victims of non-accidental head trauma and Shaken Baby Syndrome to experience learning disabilities and physical limitations as a result of their injuries. Rehabilitative treatment is likely to be necessary long after the date of the abuse occurs.
If you have any questions or concerns about what can be done to help babies who have been shaken due to Shaken Baby Syndrome, Child Abuse, or families of babies who have died, please call Christopher Keane and The Keane Law Firm toll-free for free consultation at (888) 592-5437 (KIDS), click on contact us here, or use the web form provided at https://www.keanelaw.com