Sudden Unexpected Infant Death: A Compassionate Forensic Approach to Care

TitleSudden Unexpected Infant Death: A Compassionate Forensic Approach to Care
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCarroll R, Wood JN
JournalClinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine
Date Published09/2012
Keywordsasphyxia, autopsy, Child Abuse, infant mortality, prone position, sleep, sudden infant death syndrome, sudden unexplained infant death

Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), and more specifically sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), is the leading cause of death of infants outside of the neonatal period in the United States. In approximately 10%-20% of cases of SUID a specific cause of death is identified. In the majority of cases, however, a thorough investigation including autopsy, examination of the death scene and a review of the clinical history fails to identify a specific cause of death and a diagnosis of SIDS is made. The possible causes of SIDS are numerous, and to date, there is no adequate unifying pathological or genetic explanation. All families of young infants should be counseled on the known modifiable risk factors of SIDS and SUIDS including safe sleep environment, smoking, and pacifier use. Responding to a SUID in the emergency department presents challenges from an emotional, cultural, procedural and legal perspective. A team-based approach to provide family-centered care that is personal, individualized, compassionate and culturally sensitive is recommended.