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Practitioner Review: Beyond shaken baby syndrome: what influences the outcomes for infants following traumatic brain injury?

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in infancy is relatively common, and is likely to lead to poorer outcomes than injuries sustained later in childhood. While the headlines have been grabbed by infant TBI caused by abuse, often known as shaken baby syndrome, the evidence base for how to support children following TBI in infancy is thin. These children are likely to benefit from ongoing assessment and intervention, because brain injuries sustained in the first year of life can influence development in different ways over many years. Methods: 

A literature search was conducted and drawn together into a review aimed at informing practitioners working with children who had a brain injury in infancy. As there are so few evidence-based studies specifically looking at children who have sustained a TBI in infancy, ideas are drawn from a range of studies, including different age ranges and difficulties other than traumatic brain injury. Results: 

This paper outlines the issues around measuring outcomes for children following TBI in the first year of life. An explanation of outcomes which are more likely for children following TBI in infancy is provided, in the areas of mortality; convulsions; endocrine problems; sensory and motor skills; cognitive processing; language; academic attainments; executive functions; and psychosocial difficulties. The key factors influencing these outcomes are then set out, including severity of injury; pre-morbid situation; genetics; family factors and interventions. Conclusions: 

Practitioners need to take a long-term, developmental view when assessing, understanding and supporting children who have sustained a TBI in their first year of life. The literature suggests some interventions which may be useful in prevention, acute care and longer-term rehabilitation, and further research is needed to assess their effectiveness.
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Keywords: Child; TBI; head injury; head trauma; prevention; rehabilitation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2010

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