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Pediatricians Adopt New Term for Shaken Baby Abuse

Pediatricians Adopt New Term for Shaken Baby Abuse

Associated Press/AP Online

May 01, 2009

CHICAGO – The American Academy of Pediatrics wants doctors to stop using the term “shaken baby syndrome” in favor of something more scientific.

The nation’s largest pediatricians’ group recommends “abusive head trauma,” calling it a more comprehensive diagnosis for brain, skull and spinal injuries associated with shaking and other head injuries inflicted on infants.

The academy says the new diagnostic term should be used in medical records and that it may provide more clarity in the courtroom.

Some defense attorneys and doctors believe shaken baby syndrome doesn’t exist, arguing that it’s impossible to shake babies hard enough to cause brain injuries without breaking their necks. But that argument is based on faulty evidence and is not shared by most physicians who specialize in treating child abuse, said Dr. Robert Block, former chairman of an academy committee on child abuse.

The National Institutes of Health says shaking can cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding, “which can lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.”

Block said legal challenges to the term “shaken baby syndrome” can detract from more important questions about whether abuse occurred. The new term can avoid that problem, he said.

“In no way does this change the position of the academy” about the potentially fatal risks of shaking an infant, said Block, a pediatrics professor at the University of Oklahoma’s community medicine school in Tulsa.

The pediatrics academy recommends the new terminology in a policy statement being published in the May issue of its journal, Pediatrics.


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