Gas dispersal potential of bedding as a cause for sudden infant death

Forensic Sci Int. 2008 Sep 18;180(2-3):93-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2008.07.006. Epub 2008 Sep 5.


We assessed the gas dispersal potential of bedding articles used by 14 infants diagnosed with sudden unexpected infant death at autopsy. Of these cases, eight exhibited FiCO(2) values greater than 10% within 2.5 min, six of which were found prone and two supine. The results demonstrated that these eight beddings had a high rebreathing potential if they covered the babies' faces. We did not, however, take into account in our model the large tissue stores of CO(2). As some bicarbonate pools will delay or suppress the increase of FiCO(2), the time-FiCO(2) graphs of this study are not true for living infants. This model, however, demonstrated the potential gas dispersal ability of bedding. The higher the FiCO(2) values, the more dangerous the situation for rebreathing infants. In addition, FiO(2) in the potential space around the model's face can be estimated mathematically using FiCO(2) values. The FiO(2) graph pattern for each bedding item corresponded roughly to the inverse of the FiCO(2) time course. The FiO(2) of the above eight cases decreased by 8.5% within 2.5 min. Recent studies using living infants placed prone to sleep reported that some babies exhibited larger decreases in FiO(2) than increases observed in FiCO(2). While the decrease of FiO(2) in our model is still theoretical, CO(2) accumulation and O(2) deprivation are closely related. If a striking O(2) deficiency occurs in a short period, babies can lose consciousness before an arousal response is evoked and all infants could be influenced by the poor gas dispersal of bedding; the main cause of sudden death in infancy would thus be asphyxia. When the bedding is soft, the potential for trapping CO(2) seems to be high; however, it is impossible to assess it by appearance alone. We sought to provide some objective indices for the assessment of respiratory compromise in relation to bedding using our model. When a baby is found unresponsive with his/her face covered with poor gas dispersal bedding, we should consider the possibility of asphyxia.

MeSH terms

  • Bedding and Linens*
  • Beds*
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Prone Position
  • Respiration*
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Supine Position


  • Carbon Dioxide