Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

The death of an infant under 1 year of age that, after an autopsy and clinical review, can not be explained, is called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The incidence is estimated at 0.6 per 1,000 live births, with a male predominance. The etiology is elusive. Both genetic and environmental factors are implicated. The occurrence of SIDS is higher among families with genetic disorders and also subsequent to maternal heavy cigarette smoking and drinking during pregnancy.

Pathologic and experimental studies point to a pathogenetic role of the medullary serotonergic system that controls autonomic functions and arousal. It is suggested that autonomic and respiratory failure due to a prenatal injury to the medullary serotonergic raphe nuclei, and also to some nonserotonergic nuclei, account for the sudden death.

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