|08-21-2001, 07:31 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: New Brunswick, NJ, USA
Nonviolent shaking can hurt infant's brain
Published on 06/14/2001
Nonviolent shaking can hurt infant's brain: study
LONDON, Jun 14 (Reuters) - Even nonviolent shaking of an infant can accidentally cause brain damage and death, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.
Researchers at the Royal London Hospital in England, who conducted one of the largest and most detailed studies of suspicious brain damage in children, said serious injuries are caused not only by violent movements or injuries to the head.
But they added that normal interaction between an adult and child, such as bouncing babies on knees, would not lead to serious injuries.
"They would have to involve vigorous unsupported movement of the head," said Jennian Geddes, a neuropathologist at the London hospital.
"But you could imagine scenarios that might produce the damage without it being deliberately inflicted," she added.
Geddes said nerve fibres in the baby's neck that control breathing can be damaged by unsupported movements of the child's head and can lead to a lack of oxygen and brain swelling.
"The research...calls into question the scientific evidence behind many convictions for killing infants and could open the way for a wave of appeals," the weekly science magazine reported.
The research may make it more difficult for courts to determine whether injuries are caused by abuse or negligence. Shaken baby syndrome made headlines in 1997 when British nanny Louise Woodward was convicted of killing a baby boy in Massachusetts by shaking him violently.
The London scientists studied 53 children who had died of suspected deliberate injuries.
Their research, which will be published in the journal Brain, showed the kind of damage that would have been caused by violent shaking or a direct blow to the head in only 2 of 37 babies who were younger than 1 year of age.
Three quarters of the infants died because they had stopped breathing. Geddes and her team found damage in these babies where the brain meets the spinal cord. This is a particularly vulnerable spot in young babies because the neck muscles are very weak and their heads are quite large.
Stretching or damage to the nerves at this point can cause pressure in the skull to rise as the body tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
The damage that results is similar to that caused by violent shaking, but a new technique can spot subtle differences between the two types of injuries.
"The investigators also question the origin of other lesions that are assumed to be evidence of extreme violence," the magazine added.
Geddes said the message from her research is to treat babies with extreme care.