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Sudden unexpected infant death including SIDS: Initial management

Michael J Corwin, MD
Mary McClain, RN, MS
Section Editors
George B Mallory, MD
Teresa K Duryea, MD
Adrienne G Randolph, MD, MSc
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Sudden unexpected infant death (SUID), or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), describes all unexpected infant deaths and includes deaths caused by sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is the leading cause of death in infants between one month and one year of age in the United States. SIDS probably has more than one cause, although the final process appears to be similar in most cases [1].

The clinical management of an SUID including SIDS is discussed in this topic review. Mechanisms, risk factors, and measures to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths are discussed separately. (See "Sudden infant death syndrome: Risk factors and risk reduction strategies".)


Sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) can be subdivided into explained SUID and unexplained SUID:

Unexplained SUID includes those deaths considered to be sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by the medical examiner. SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant younger than one year of age, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation [2,3]. Unexplained SUID also includes some cases that are not considered SIDS, but lack a clear explanation due to uncertain circumstances.

Explained SUID includes deaths for which the medical examiner determines that there is a specific cause, including deaths caused by fatal child abuse or underlying medical disorders including metabolic disease. It also includes deaths that are deemed to be caused by accidental suffocation or entrapment during sleep. (See 'Differential diagnosis' below.)

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 06, 2016.
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