Shaken Baby Syndrome - Symptoms

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What are shaken baby syndrome symptoms and signs?

The symptoms and signs of shaken baby syndrome have an extremely broad range to display. This range is due to the nature of the inflicted trauma, including the frequency, duration, and whether the result of a single event or multiple events. Behavioral changes may include the following:

  1. Extreme irritability and high-pitched crying
  2. Lethargy and poor feeding
  3. Vomiting without obvious reason
  4. Loss of social engagement (smiling, cooing, etc.)
  5. Poor suck/swallow coordination
  6. Unusual breathing patterns (continuous deep pattern or rapid and shallow pattern)

Physical changes associated with shaken baby syndrome may include the following:

  1. Bruising of the body due either to the grip strength of the individual inflicting trauma or as a consequence of hitting or being hit by blunt objects (for example, wooden spoons)
  2. Head trauma: bruising, swelling, and/or laceration of the scalp, deformity of the skull (commonly a depression due to a skull fracture)
  3. Inability of the infant eyes to track or focus on an object
  4. Abnormal increase in muscle tone or evidence of an increase in pressure of the structures of the skull (for example, brain)
  5. Seizures
  6. Hemorrhages of the retina
  7. Bleeding of the surrounding or supporting structures of the brain or in the brain substance itself (most frequently diagnosed via CT or MRI studies)
  8. Bleeding and/or drainage of clear fluid (spinal fluid -- clear fluid that surrounds the brain) from the nose or ear canal

It is crucial to note that many studies have demonstrated that 20%-50% of children who sustain shaken baby syndrome have evidence of other episodes of inflicted trauma, such as intentional burns, broken bones (most commonly rib and the long bones of the arms and legs), and/or bruising not consistent with routine and age-appropriate injury.

Return to Shaken Baby Syndrome (Abusive Head Trauma)

See what others are saying

Comment from: 0-2 Female (Caregiver) Published: March 14

My daughter was 14 months old when we found out that the bleeding in her brain was caused by shaken baby syndrome.

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Comment from: Tammy, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: July 08

I was shaken by my father back when I was 7 years old. I remember him shaking me so hard that my head hurt and I couldn't hold my head up for very long. This would cause my head to drop to the back left or back right of either shoulder. Ever since then I have has a lot of problems remembering things that seem mentally too difficult in nature to remember. I was never seen by a doctor after this happened. To this day I suffer with migraines, have had several problems with my neck muscles. This is perhaps the cause of my life struggle of a learning disability.

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