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Brain Defects Linked to Sudden Infant Death Cases, Study

Update Date: Nov 12, 2013 01:07 AM EST

Infants dying unexpectedly and suddenly in their sleep might have underlying abnormalities in their brain stems, a new research finds.

Around 50 infants who died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) were reviewed upon by the researchers.

In some of the reviewed cases few infants died because of asphyxia. Asphyxia is condition when oxygen intake is restricted. Most possible causes for this condition is unsafe sleeping conditions like sleeping face down in pillow. Reasons of few other infant deaths turned out to be unclear as sleep environment was completely safe so there would not have asphyxia.

Babies who died in unsafe sleep environments as well as in safe sleep environments showed abnormalities in brain stem chemicals. Researchers concluded that such brain abnormalities prevent babies from waking up when they feel insufficient oxygen for breathing.

“Even the infants dying in unsafe sleep environments had an underlying brain-stem abnormality that likely made them vulnerable to sudden death, if there was any degree of asphyxia,” study researcher Dr. Hannah Kinney, a neuropathologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in a statement.

Apparently, it is important that parents should prefer safe sleep practices. This could help a bit to those vulnerable infants are not exposed to potentially life-threatening asphyxia like situations.

“Certainly, there are unsafe sleeping environments that can cause any baby to die, such as entrapment in the crib, but if it’s just sleeping face down, the baby who dies may have an underlying brainstem vulnerability,” said Kinney according to Science World Report.

“We have to find ways to test for this underlying vulnerability in living babies and then to treat it. Our team is focused now upon developing such a test and treatment.Safe sleep practices absolutely remain important, so these infants are not put in a potentially asphyxiating situation that they cannot respond to.”

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

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