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Shaken Baby Syndrome


Shaken baby syndrome is brain injury caused by violent shaking. It is also called abusive head trauma. Intense shaking causes your baby's brain to bleed, bruise, and swell. This leads to decreased oxygen to your baby's brain. It may result in permanent, severe brain damage and can be life-threatening.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.

Stay with your child for comfort and support

as often as possible while he or she is in the hospital. Ask another family member or someone close to the family to stay with your child when you cannot be there. Bring items from home that will comfort your child, such as a favorite blanket or toy.

An endotracheal (ET) tube

may be needed to help your child breathe. An ET tube is put in your child's mouth or nose, and goes into the trachea (windpipe). It may be connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ET tube will be taken out when your child is breathing better.

Your child's head circumference

will be measured. A smaller than expected head size may be a sign of damage.


is a small tube placed in your child's vein that is used to give medicine or liquids.

A nasogastric (NG) tube

may be put into your baby's nose and down into his or her stomach. It will be used to keep his or her stomach empty, but may also be used to give him or her food or medicine.

Neurologic (neuro) checks

are used to test your baby's brain function. They are also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. During a neuro check, healthcare providers test how your baby's pupils react to light. They may check how easily he or she wakes up. Your baby's hand grasp and balance may also be tested. How your baby responds to the neuro checks can tell healthcare providers if the injury has affected his or her brain.

Your child may need extra oxygen

if his blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Your child may get oxygen through a mask placed over his nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in his nostrils. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.

A ventilator

is a machine that can breathe for your child if he or she cannot breathe on his or her own. An endotracheal tube (ET tube) may be put in his or her mouth or nose. The ET tube is hooked to the ventilator. The ventilator can also give your baby oxygen.


  • Anticonvulsant medicine may be given to prevent seizures caused by bleeding and swelling in your baby's brain.
  • Brain diuretics may be given to help decrease swelling in your baby's brain. This may improve blood flow in his or her brain.


  • Ophthalmoscopy allows healthcare providers to see the back of your baby's eye. They may use eye drops to dilate the pupil. This helps them see the back of your baby's eyes clearly.
  • CT or MRI pictures of your baby's head may show bleeding and swelling. Your baby may be given contrast liquid to help healthcare providers see the bleeding and swelling better. Tell the healthcare provider if your baby has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your baby has any metal in or on his or her body.


  • A shunt is a flexible tube placed into a space in your baby's brain. The tube helps drain fluid out of the brain and into the abdomen or chest. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about shunts.
  • Surgery may be needed to stop bleeding in your baby's brain. This may also be done to remove blood that has collected in his or her brain.


A baby who has shaken baby syndrome may have bleeding into his or her eyes. This may lead to blindness. He or she may also have developmental delays, nerve and muscle problems, or slow growth as he or she gets older. These problems may require lifelong medical care. Shaken baby syndrome can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your baby.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Shaken Baby Syndrome (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

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