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July 4, 2012

Ensuring Appropriate Expert Testimony for Cases Involving the “Shaken Baby”

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Departments of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (Dr Albert) and Pediatrics (Dr Knox), University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison; University of Wisconsin Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Dr Blanchard); and American Family Children's Hospital, Madison (Dr Knox). Dr Albert is Editor, Archives of Ophthalmology.

JAMA. 2012;308(1):39-40. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6763

For the past 50 years, the “shaken baby” syndrome has been one of the many terms used to describe a form of abusive head trauma in children. The term now preferred is pediatric abusive head trauma (AHT), which is defined as “an injury to the skull or intracranial contents of an infant or young child (<5 years of age) due to inflicted blunt impact and/or violent shaking.”1,2 This new term reflects the fundamental construct that certain forms of head trauma are intentionally inflicted. The incidence is estimated to be 20 to 30 cases per 100 000 children younger than 1 year, and the case-fatality rate exceeds 20%.1 Abusive head trauma causes significant disability for about two-thirds of survivors1 and also results in major health care costs.