Objective: To determine whether there is an age-specific incidence of hospitalized cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) that has similar properties to the previously reported "normal crying curve," as a form of indirect evidence that crying is an important stimulus for SBS.
Design and setting: The study analyzed cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome by age at hospitalization from hospital discharge data for California hospitals from October 1996 through December 2000.
Patients: All cases of children less than 18 months (78 weeks) of age for whom the diagnostic code for Shaken Baby Syndrome (995.55) in the International Classification of Disease, Ninth Edition, Clinical Modification was assigned.
Results: There were 273 hospitalizations for SBS. Like the "normal crying curve," the curve of age-specific incidence starts at 2-3 weeks, has a clear peak, and declines to baseline by about 36 weeks of age. In contrast to the normal crying curve that peaks at 5-6 weeks, the peak of SBS hospitalizations occurs at 10-13 weeks.
Conclusions: The age-specific incidence curve of hospitalized SBS cases has a similar starting point and shape to the previously reported normal crying curve but the peak occurs about 4-6 weeks later. Of the likely predisposing causes, this pattern is only consistent with the properties of early crying. There are numerous explanations for the lag in the peaks between crying and SBS hospitalizations, including the possibility of repeat shakings prior to hospitalization. The importance of crying as a stimulus to SBS may provide an opportunity for preventive intervention.