Shaken Impact Syndrome

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Shaken impact syndrome is a serious brain injury that occurs as a result of forcefully shaking a baby or infant. It is also known as abusive head trauma or shaken baby syndrome. It is a type of child abuse that typically happens when an angry adult is trying to stop a baby from crying. It can also happen when an adult is angry with a toddler about things such as potty training or tantrums. Shaken baby syndrome can result in permanent brain damage or even death. It is more common in babies between 3 and 8 months, although these injuries may be seen in children up to 5 years old. You should not shake a baby in any circumstance.


When one shakes a baby head back and forth, the baby’s brain hits the skull rupturing blood vessels and nerves throughout the brain. This is because babies have weak head muscles which provides little support to the head.Shaking a baby can cause bruising, swelling and bleeding in the brain. The impact can also cause bleeding at the retina of the eye.


Shaken baby syndrome can present the following signs and symptoms.

  • irritability
  • vomiting
  • poor sucking or swallowing
  • loss of appetite
  • pale or bluish skin
  • paralysis
  • difficulty staying awake
  • seizures
  • unequal pupil
  • rigidity


Factors that may influence a person to inflict shaken impact syndrome includes the following

  • single parenthood
  • stress
  • domestic violence
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • depression
  • history of child abuse
  • stress for baby
  • young parent


Babies with shaken baby syndrome may not even see a doctor if symptoms are less severe and when they do, parents and caregivers fail to tell the doctor what really happened. Babies may therefore endure complications that may be prevented. To diagnose this disease, doctors use a series of test which includes

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This is used to provide detailed images of a child’s brain to check for areas of damage.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan: It provides a cross-section of the child brain. It is used to detect injuries that need immediate care or attention.

Eye exam: This test is used to check for bleeding of the retina and other eye injuries.

Blood test: This is done to rule out certain diseases and disorders that mimic shaken impact syndrome.

X-ray: This is done to check for skeletal fractures.


Treatment of a child with shaken impact syndrome involves life saving measures such as breathing support and surgery to stop bleeding. It is essential to seek immediate care when a baby exhibit signs of this disease.