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Houston Shaken Baby Defense: The unsettled science of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Posted on August 5, 2016 by Jesse Quackenbush

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For more than a decade, a growing movement of doctors and engineers has questioned the science behind Shaken Baby Syndrome, long considered a serious public health threat. Testing has been unable to conclusively show if violent shaking can produce the conditions often linked to the diagnosis — bleeding and swelling in the head and bleeding in the back of the eyes — and doctors have found that accidents and a series of diseases can in some cases produce identical conditions in infants. Doctors who support the diagnosis, however, say that it has been validated by years of clinical work, research and confessions from parents and caregivers. Here is how those doctors describe the impact of violent shaking:

Young children have proportionally bigger and heavier heads than adults and weaker neck muscles. Their brains are also immature and more susceptible to injuries.

Retinal hemorrhaging
During violent shaking, blood vessels in a child’s brain may break, causing widespread bleeding in the back of the eyes. Pediatricians say they have found retinal hemorrhages in 85 percent of babies who were shaken.

Brain swelling
Acceleration and deceleration changes cause swelling of the brain. This damage changes the shape of the brain and triggers the loss of neurons, very similar to conditions that have been observed in boxers.

Subdural hematoma
When a child is shaken or thrown, the head twists and whips back a creating shearing forces in the brain. This can cause tears to the bridging veins and nerve cells and trigger bleeding and swelling.

Story provided by the Washington Post.

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Jesse Quackenbush
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