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Nasal and intrapulmonary haemorrhage in sudden infant death syndrome


BACKGROUND Fresh intrapulmonary and oronasal haemorrhages in cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) might be markers for accidental or intentional smothering inappropriately diagnosed as SIDS.

AIM To compare the incidence, epidemiological association, and inter-relation of nasal haemorrhage, intrapulmonary haemorrhage, and intrathoracic petechiae in infant deaths certified as SIDS.

METHODS In SIDS cases from a large nationwide case–control study, a wide range of variables were compared in cases with and without reported nasal haemorrhage and, in a subgroup of cases, in those with and without pathologically significant intrapulmonary haemorrhage.

RESULTS Nasal haemorrhage was reported in 60 of 385 cases (15%) whose parents were interviewed. Pathologically significant intra-alveolar pulmonary haemorrhage was found in 47% of 115 cases studied, but was severe in only 7%. Infants with nasal haemorrhage had more haemorrhage into alveoli and air passages than age matched cases without nasal haemorrhage. In multivariate analysis, nasal haemorrhage was associated with younger infant age, bed sharing, and the infant being placed non-prone to sleep. Intrapulmonary haemorrhage was associated with the same three factors in univariate analysis, but in multivariate analysis only younger infant age remained statistically significant. There was no significant association between nasal or intra-alveolar haemorrhages and intrathoracic petechiae.

CONCLUSIONS Nasal and intrapulmonary haemorrhages have common associations not shared with intrathoracic petechiae. Smothering is a possible common factor, although is unlikely to be the cause in most cases presenting as SIDS.

  • sudden infant death syndrome
  • infanticide
  • nasal haemorrhage
  • pulmonary haemorrhage

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