What is shaken baby syndrome (SBS)?

Shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is a type of inflicted traumatic brain injury that happens when a baby is violently shaken. A baby has weak neck muscles and a large, heavy head. Shaking makes the fragile brain bounce back and forth inside the skull and causes bruising, swelling, and bleeding, which can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death. The characteristic injuries of SBS are subdural hemorrhages (bleeding in the brain), retinal hemorrhages (bleeding in the retina), damage to the spinal cord and neck, and fractures of the ribs and bones. These injuries may, however, not be immediately noticeable. Symptoms of SBS include extreme irritability, lethargy, poor feeding, breathing problems, convulsions, vomiting, and pale or bluish skin. Shaken baby injuries usually occur in children younger than two years of age, but may be seen in children up to the age of five.

This Answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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