Dedicated to eliminating the tragedy of sudden infant deaths

Sudden Unexpected Death in Fetal Life Through Early Childhood

Pediatric JournalPEDIATRICS Volume 1 37, number 6 , June 2016

In March 2015, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development held a workshop entitled “Sudden Unexpected Death in Fetal Life Through Early Childhood: New Opportunities.” Its objective was to advance efforts to understand and ultimately prevent sudden deaths in early life, by considering their pathogenesis as a potential continuum with some commonalities in biological origins or pathways. A second objective of this meeting was to highlight current issues surrounding the classification of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and the implications of variations in the use of the term “SIDS” in forensic practice, and pediatric care and research. The proceedings reflected the most current knowledge and understanding of the origins and biology of vulnerability to sudden unexpected death, and its environmental triggers. Participants were encouraged to consider the application of new technologies and “omics” approaches to accelerate research. The major advances in delineating the intrinsic vulnerabilities to sudden death in early life have come from epidemiologic, neural, cardiac, metabolic, genetic, and physiologic research, with some commonalities among cases of unexplained stillbirth, SIDS, and sudden unexplained death in childhood observed. It was emphasized that investigations of sudden unexpected death are inconsistent, varying by jurisdiction, as are the education, certification practices, and experience of death certifiers. In addition, there is no practical consensus on the use of “SIDS” as a determination in cause of death. Major clinical, forensic, and scientific areas are identified for future research.

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