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Sudden infant death syndrome: Risk factors and risk reduction strategies

Author
Michael J Corwin, MD
Section Editors
George B Mallory, MD
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD

INTRODUCTION

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also called crib or cot death, is the leading cause of infant mortality between one month and one year of age in the United States. Since the 1990s, however, new studies in pathology and epidemiology have provided the basis for an important evolution in the understanding of SIDS.

The risk factors for and measures to reduce the risk of SIDS are discussed in this topic review. Clinical management for the family of an infant who has succumbed to SIDS and alternate diagnostic considerations are discussed separately. (See "Sudden unexpected infant death including SIDS: Initial management".)

DEFINITION

SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than one year of age, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history [1,2].

This definition emphasizes the necessity of autopsy, death scene investigation, and review of the clinical history when making the diagnosis of SIDS, to exclude other explanations for the sudden unexpected infant death that can mimic SIDS (table 1). The evaluation of an infant who has died of suspected SIDS and alternate diagnostic considerations are discussed separately. (See "Sudden unexpected infant death including SIDS: Initial management".)

TERMINOLOGY

Due in part to potential inconsistencies in the diagnosis of SIDS, the term "sudden unexpected infant death" (SUID) is often used to describe all unexpected infant deaths. The SUID designation can then be subdivided into explained SUID and unexplained SUID. Unexplained SUID generally includes those cases considered SIDS by the medical examiner, as well as some cases that are not considered SIDS but lack a clear explanation due to uncertain circumstances. Some reports in the literature use the term "unexplained SUID" instead of "SIDS" to avoid inconsistencies between medical examiners in reporting SIDS as a cause of death.

                          

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