Experts Explain Shaken Baby Syndrome After Infants’ Deaths

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The arrest of a Springdale man accused of shaking two of his babies to death raised questions this week about shaken baby syndrome.

While not specifically responding to that situation, local experts explained the syndrome Friday.

“Sometimes it’s just shaking or a throw, but the issue is that that child has some impact to their head,” said Stephanie Smith, regional director for the National Child Protection Training Center in Bentonville.

“What happens if they don`t stop crying and parents get frustrated and they go to shake their kid, which you should never do. But that`s the way it happens typically and then the brain actually shakes against the skull and causes bruises and bleeding,” said Dr. Joel Jones, an emergency room physician at Northwest Medical Center in Bentonville.

Smith said the injuries that children suffer are usually a head bleed that will often be in combination with retinal hemorrhaging of the eyes.

Jones said shaking a baby can cause brain damage and even a loss of vision.

“For your vision to function right, the retina is on the back of the eye---it’s attached, and the blood vessels go through there," he said. "If you shake enough and peel that away...your vision is gone.”

He said shaken babies can also suffer fractures of their cervical vertebrae, neck fractures, and spinal cord injuries.

Doctors said there usually aren`t visible signs of shaken baby syndrome. A CAT scan would need to be performed to look at the brain for injuries.

“The ultimate would be a CAT scan of their brain to look for bleeding (and) an eye exam to look for retinal hemorrhages,” Jones said.

Benton County Coronor Daniel Oxford said the syndrome is hard to determine from just looking at the child.

“Generally, there are no broken bones during shaken baby syndrome," Oxford said. "There can be, but it’s generally caused by other trauma.”

Washington County Coronor Roger Morris told 5NEWS he has seen about five fatal cases of shaken baby syndrome within the last few years.