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Sudden unexpected death in infancy: aetiology, pathophysiology, epidemiology and prevention in 2015

Journal title
Archives of disease in childhood
Publication year
Fleming, P. J.; Blair, P. S.; Pease, A.

Despite the fall in numbers of unexpected infant deaths that followed the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaigns in the early 1990 s in the UK and many other countries, such deaths remain one of the largest single groups of deaths in the postneonatal period in many Western countries. Changes in the ways in which unexpected infant deaths are categorised by pathologists and coroners, and increasing reluctance to use the term ‘sudden infant death syndrome’, make assessment of nationally and internationally collected data on incidence potentially inaccurate and confusing. In this paper, we review current understanding of the epidemiology and aetiology of unexpected deaths in infancy, and current hypotheses on the pathophysiology of the processes that may lead to death. We also review interventions that have been adopted, with variable degrees of effectiveness in efforts to reduce the numbers of deaths, and new approaches that offer the possibility of prevention in the future.

Research abstracts