Sudden infant death syndrome: diagnostic practices and investigative policies, 2004

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2012 Sep;33(3):197-201. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181fe33bd.


Using a 2004 population-based survey of all US medical examiner and coroner offices, we examined the characteristics of offices accepting an infant death case and calculated the percentage of offices that had death scene investigation or autopsy policies for the investigation of sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). We also calculated the percentage of offices that used and did not use sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as a cause of death, and we compared differences in characteristics among those offices.Of medical examiner and coroner offices, 52% did not report an infant death in 2004. Of the 7957 infant deaths reported, 43% occurred in jurisdictions that experienced 1 or 2 infant deaths. Of the offices that used SIDS as a classification, 34% did not have policies for conducting death scene investigations and autopsies for SUID. At least 5% of offices that reported an infant death did not use SIDS as a cause of death classification. These findings have important implications for understanding recent trends in SIDS and SUID. Supporting the implementation of national standards for investigating and certifying infant deaths could provide guidelines for consistent practices in medical examiner and coroner offices.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / standards
  • Cause of Death
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / standards*
  • Forensic Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Organizational Policy*
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology*
  • United States