Some Medical Experts Now Believe Shaken Baby Syndrome May Have Been Overdiagnosed, Leading To Parents And Caregivers Being Unfairly Convicted
In the past, shaken baby syndrome, sometimes referred to as abusive head trauma, has been diagnosed when medical personnel found three symptoms (known as the “triad”): subdural hematoma, brain swelling, and bleeding behind the eyes. These three symptoms have been widely accepted as tell-tale signs of abuse and are often considered concrete evidence that the baby was violently shaken.
In 1997, Dr. Patrick Barnes testified for the prosecution in the trial of Louise Woodward, an 18-year-old au pair accused of shaking an 8-month-old in her care. Dr. Barnes, a neuroradiologist at Stanford University, says he now feels that the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis has been applied too liberally in criminal cases. He explains that both bleeding and swelling of the brain could be caused by other factors, such as previous injuries, accidental falls, in utero strokes, and infections. Additionally, sickle-cell anemia and birth trauma can cause these symptoms in an infant.
Explaining The Triad of Symptoms
A subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the surface of the brain, occurs when the blood vessels between the surface of the brain and the thin layer of tissue that separates the brain from the skull rupture. It is the most common type of brain bleed in a newborn baby. A subdural hematoma can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) during labor, however, it is more commonly caused by trauma to the baby’s head. Such trauma can occur during delivery if forceps or a vacuum extractor are used, the baby is delivered vaginally when in breech position, the baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis, or labor is prolonged.
Brain swelling can also be caused by complications during labor and delivery, including a lack of oxygen or head trauma. Both hypoxia and trauma to the head can lead to an intraventricular hemorrhage, bleeding inside the ventricles of the brain, which results in swelling. Swelling in a baby’s brain can also be caused by brain infections, like meningitis, or intrauterine infections, such as syphilis, cytomegalovirus, rubella and toxoplasmosis.
Bleeding behind the eyes, or retinal hemorrhages, can also be a result of trauma to a baby’s head. They are most commonly found when a vacuum extractor is used incorrectly during delivery or when other brain bleeds, such as a subdural hematoma, have occurred.
Michigan Birth Trauma and HIE Attorneys Helping Victims of Medical Malpractice
The birth trauma attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have over three decades of experience with cases involving children who were injured due to medical malpractice. If your child was affected by a birth injury that could have been prevented, it’s important to work with attorneys who understand the complexities of birth injury cases. The attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers pride themselves on being advocates for their clients.
Our attorneys are available to speak with you and provide you with a free legal consultation 24/7. Please call our office toll-free at 888-419-2229, email our birth injury attorneys, press the Live Chat tab to the left of your browser, or complete our quick online contact form.
- nytimes.com, Shaken Baby Syndrome: A Diagnosis That Divides the Medical World, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/14/us/shaken-baby-syndrome-a-diagnosis-that-divides-the-medical-world.html