The infant whiplash-shake injury syndrome: a clinical and pathological study

Neurosurgery. 1989 Apr;24(4):536-40. doi: 10.1227/00006123-198904000-00008.


The cases of 13 infants (median age, 3 months) who sustained nonaccidental trauma were reviewed. All presented with profound neurological impairment, seizures, retinal hemorrhages, and intracranial subarachnoid and/or subdural hemorrhages. Of 8 infants who died, autopsy was performed on 6. No patient had a skull fracture, and only one had an extracalvarial contusion. Five of the 6 patients on whom autopsy was performed had injuries at the cervicomedullary junction consisting of sub- or epidural hematomas of the cervical spinal cord with proximal spinal cord contusions. The authors conclude that direct cranial trauma is not an essential element of the injury mechanism in young patients who sustain severe whiplash-shake injuries. In addition to the classic injuries reported to occur with the shaken-baby syndrome, hemorrhages and contusions of the high cervical spinal cord may contribute to morbidity and mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Syndrome
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications
  • Whiplash Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Whiplash Injuries / pathology*