The cause of death in infants who die suddenly and unexpectedly (sudden unexpected death in infancy [SUDI]) remains a diagnostic challenge. Some infants have identified diseases (explained SUDI); those without explanation are called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Demographic data indicate subgroups among SUDI and SIDS cases, such as unsafe sleeping and apparent life-threatening events. Infants dying suddenly with retinal and dural bleeding are often classified as abused, but in many there is no evidence of trauma. Demographic features suggest that they may represent a further subgroup of SUDI. This review examines the neuropathological hypotheses to explain SIDS and highlights the interaction of infant oxygen-conserving reflexes with the brainstem networks considered responsible for SIDS. We consider sex- and age-specific vulnerabilities related to dural bleeding and how sensitization of the dural innervation by bleeding may influence these reflexes, potentially leading to collapse or even death after otherwise trivial insults.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology