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Book contents

2 - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2018

Jhodie R Duncan
Affiliation:
School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia
Roger W Byard
Affiliation:
School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia
Jodhie R. Duncan
Affiliation:
University of Melbourne
Roger W. Byard
Affiliation:
University of Adelaide
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Summary

Introduction

The term sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was first proposed in 1969 in order to focus attention on a subgroup of infants with similar clinical features whose deaths occurred unexpectedly in the postnatal period (1). Today the definition of SIDS refers to death in a seemingly healthy infant younger than 1 year of age whose death remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation including a complete autopsy, review of medical and clinical history, and death scene investigation (2). SIDS is typically associated with a sleep period (3) with death presumed to have occurred during sleep itself or in the transition between sleep and waking (4). This led to application of the terms “cot” or “crib” death; however, these terms are rarely used today. Furthermore, while the definition is inclusive of infants up to 1 year of age, approximately 95% of SIDS deaths occur in the first six months of life with a peak incidence in infants aged between 2 to 4 months (5). While there are distinctive features associated with the syndrome there are no diagnostic features that can be attributed to a SIDS death. Indeed, application of the term relies on a process of elimination and when no known cause of death or contributing factors can be determined, the term SIDS is usually applied. Thus, while the debate continues regarding the definition and use of the term SIDS, and no one definition has been universally accepted, one certainty persists, and that is that SIDS still remains a diagnosis of exclusion (1).

History

Sudden death in a seemingly healthy infant during sleep is not a phenomenon of modern times, with cases being recorded throughout history for thousands of years. Indeed, one of the first cases is mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 3:19). However, these deaths have generally been attributed to overlaying, as it was common practice to sleep in the same bed as a child. Indeed, the death of an infant by “overlay” was considered such an issue that by the seventh century the event was a punishable offence (6), with the introduction of a “protective” wooden arcuccio for infants to sleep in during the 18th century in Europe with severe penalties if the infant died in a co-sleeping arrangement and the frame was not used (7).

Type
Chapter
Information
SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death
The past, the present and the future
, pp. 15 - 50
Publisher: The University of Adelaide Press
Print publication year: 2018

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  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview
    • By Jhodie R Duncan, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia, Roger W Byard, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia
  • Edited by Jodhie R. Duncan, University of Melbourne, Roger W. Byard, University of Adelaide
  • Book: SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death
  • Online publication: 20 July 2018
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  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview
    • By Jhodie R Duncan, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia, Roger W Byard, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia
  • Edited by Jodhie R. Duncan, University of Melbourne, Roger W. Byard, University of Adelaide
  • Book: SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death
  • Online publication: 20 July 2018
Available formats
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To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An Overview
    • By Jhodie R Duncan, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia, Roger W Byard, School of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia and Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Victoria, Australia
  • Edited by Jodhie R. Duncan, University of Melbourne, Roger W. Byard, University of Adelaide
  • Book: SIDS Sudden Infant and Early Childhood Death
  • Online publication: 20 July 2018
Available formats
×