Death-scene investigation in sudden infant death

N Engl J Med. 1986 Jul 10;315(2):100-5. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198607103150206.


We conducted death-scene investigations in 26 consecutive cases in which a presumptive diagnosis of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was made and the infants were brought to the emergency room of the Kings County Hospital Center between October 1983 and January 1985. In six cases, we observed strong circumstantial evidence of accidental death. In 18 other cases, we discovered various possible causes of death other than SIDS, including accidental asphyxiation by an object in the crib or bassinet, smothering by overlying while sharing a bed, hyperthermia, and shaken baby syndrome. This study suggests that many sudden deaths of infants have a definable cause that can be revealed by careful investigation of the death scene and that the extremely high rate of SIDS (4.2 per 1000 live births) reported in the population of low socioeconomic status served by Kings County Hospital Center should be questioned.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home
  • Asphyxia / diagnosis
  • Autopsy
  • Bronchopneumonia / diagnosis
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sudden Infant Death* / epidemiology