Munson Health
Shaken Baby Syndrome

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by Smith N

(Shaken Impact Syndrome)



Symptoms can vary based on the severity of the injury. The injury depends on the length of time the baby is shaken or how hard the baby's head has hit a surface. Injuries caused by shaking are often extremely serious and can include:
  • Failure-to-thrive —not growing as expected
  • Poor feeding or vomiting
  • Seizures or spasms
  • Weakness
  • Semi-consciousness or loss of consciousness—not fully awake or aware of surroundings
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dilated or unresponsive pupils
  • Swollen head
  • Lethargy or irritability
These are serious symptoms. If your baby has any of the above symptoms, then go to the emergency room right away.
There are not always bruises or other signs of injury to the child’s head or body. If there are visible injuries they may be:
  • Bruising of the part of the body used as a handle for shaking
  • Fractures of the arm bones, leg bones, and/or ribs


It is important to get medical care right away if your baby is severely or violently shaken. Immediately take your child to an emergency room. Early medical care may decrease the amount of brain damage. Don't let embarrassment, guilt, or fear get in the way of protecting your child's health or life.
The goal of immediate care is to stop any further brain damage and support the baby. Early intervention is treatment or therapy to help your baby's long term recovery.

Immediate Care

Your child's treatment plan will be based on the specific injuries your child has. Some steps for immediate care include:
  • Supportive care—Your child may need assistance with basic functions like breathing.
    • This care may be temporary. It will help support your baby during healing.
    • If the injuries are severe, your baby may require permanent supportive care.
  • Treatment to relieve elevated pressure in the head—Pressure may be caused by bleeding or swelling of the brain. The increased pressure can cause further brain damage. Elevated pressure may be treated with:
    • Medications
    • Draining fluid from the head
    • Surgery to remove blood on the brain or rarely to remove part of the skull
  • Anti-seizure medications may be prescribed. Some head injuries can cause seizures.

Early Intervention

If the baby survives the injuries, the full recovery can take months to years. This type of injury can impair or delay motor skills like eating, walking, or speech. Early intervention is a form of rehabilitation. It can help your child develop motor skills as expected. The treatments include work with a team of doctors, nurses, and rehabilitation therapists. The sooner this treatment starts, the better your baby will do over time.
A family therapist is also important. This therapy will help your family with emotional issues related to your child’s injury.
If your baby is diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, follow your doctor's instructions .
If your baby is diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome, follow your doctor's instructions .


American Academy of Pediatrics

Brain Injury Association of America



Brain Injury Association of Nipissing
Shaken Baby Syndrome

Caring for Kids



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Child abuse. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated September 3, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.

Patient Information - Shaken baby syndrome. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: . Accessed July 24, 2012.

Shaken baby syndrome. American Humane Association website. Available at: . Published November 2005. Accessed September 5, 2013.

Traumatic brain injury in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated July 15, 2013. Accessed September 5, 2013.


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