Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging in Shaken Baby Syndrome

Am J Ophthalmol. 2002 Feb;133(2):249-55. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(01)01366-6.


Purpose: To evaluate the role of diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DWIMRI) in the diagnosis and management of children with suspected or confirmed Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).

Methods: This was a retrospective interventional case series of all infants and children younger than 2 years of age admitted to a children's hospital. We retrospectively reviewed medical records and neuroimaging findings of all children younger than 2 years of age with confirmed or suspected SBS admitted to a children's hospital. Inclusion criteria were documented ocular examination by an ophthalmologist and a brain MRI with DWI. Twenty-six infants and children were included. Other children were excluded. Children with proven SBS were diagnosed with "confirmed SBS," while children in whom the diagnosis of SBS remained uncertain were diagnosed with "suspected SBS."

Results: Twenty-six infants and children with mean age of 7.1 months (range, 6 weeks-24 months) were included, 18 with confirmed SBS. All 26 patients had a subdural hematoma, 10 had associated occult bone fractures, and 18 had retinal hemorrhages. Seven of the eight cases without retinal hemorrhages had isolated subdural hematoma without parenchymal brain lesions on both conventional MRI and DWIMRI. SBS was confirmed in only one case with a normal fundus. Among the 18 patients with retinal hemorrhages, SBS was confirmed in all but one case. All 18 patients with confirmed SBS had an abnormal DWIMRI. In 13 patients, DWI showed lesions that were larger than on conventional MRI. In patients with brain parenchymal lesions, the DWIMRI characteristics suggested cerebral ischemia, which appears to play a major role in SBS.

Conclusions: In all patients with confirmed SBS, DWIMRI was abnormal and suggested diffuse or posterior cerebral ischemia, in addition to subdural hematomas in the pathogenesis of this disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Battered Child Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Hematoma, Subdural / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies