Pediatric Neurologist explains Shaken Baby Syndrome

Local

We have a follow-up to a story we reported Thursday about a Jennings father charged in the shaken death of his daughter.
As we reported, police say he admitted to shaking his 7-week-old daughter so violently that she later died.

James Ray Miller is charged with second-degree cruelty to a juvenile, but the charges could change pending autopsy results.
A medical expert gives his interpretation of Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Women’s and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Kenneth Habetz says he’s seen these cases before, even many patients who survived it decades ago.

Some children pass away on the scene and some can die from the consequences. 
He says Shaken Baby Syndrome is one that’s called Abusive Head Trauma or Non-accidental Head Trauma.
Dr. Habetz says, “There’s a lot of causes that can be, but usually in the short-term it’s brain trauma to the parts of the body that are necessary for survival.”

Dr. Habetz says “shaken” is the best way to describe the injuries associated with the trauma because of the actual physics of a baby.

“They have a very large head compared to their bodies, and their neck and shoulders are weak. When you hold a baby you cradle it, and that’s part of the reason why,” explains Dr. Habetz.

If there is an injury to the brain, the pressure builds so then there’s injury from that making it harder for the baby to tolerate.

“Even the injured parts of the brain will swell and then later injure the adjacent part, the parts right next to it from direct compression,” adds Dr. Habetz.

Those who do survive could go on to develop epilepsy as a result. Those seizures tend to be lifelong effects.

“The reality is even in the short-term we don’t see any issues. You still can have some later.. sudden cognitive deficits, trouble with memory, trouble with learning, even behavioral issues,” says Dr. Habetz.

Lisa LaRochelle, Director of Clinical Services at The Family Tree, says with a loss this traumatic, she encourages the public to try to withhold judgment.

“I know sometimes there can be a lot of blame around something like this and the reality is we don’t know what this father was experiencing, we don’t know what was going on, and so just try to be supportive of this mom who’s dealing with the loss of her baby and to provide support as much as we can,” explains LaRochelle.

According to Dr. Habetz, probably a quarter to a third of infants don’t survive, but for those who do, probably 50% – 60% have very significant total care needs depending on the age of the baby.

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