Worrying resurgence of shaken babies in 2021

The Necker Hospital report is edifying: in 2021, the number of children victims of shaken baby syndrome exploded in the Paris region. A sad record, linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  Worrying resurgence of shaken babies in 2021

The shaken baby syndrome has terrible consequences for the child. Each year, nearly 200 babies are affected and those who manage to survive this traumatic shock caused by violent shocks unfortunately risk having lifelong consequences.

Shaken babies have doubled in the Paris region

In a study conducted by the Necker pediatric hospital in Paris and Inserm, and published in the scientific journal Journal of the american medical association,  the figures for shaken babies sound the alarm about the syndrome, which is clearly on the rise. Indeed, during the pandemic, the number of shaken babies has doubled and mortality has increased 9 times. . “Not only were there more cases, they were more serious” confirmed Professor Gilles Orliaguet, head of anesthesia-resuscitation at Necker at Parisian . Concretely, this gives 32 babies admitted for this purpose in 2021, of which nine died. Mortality that has doubled compared to the pre-Covid period , where 50 cases were recorded between 2017 and 2019, and 17 in 2020. And if the figures only show the situation in Île-de-France, the increase in children victims of shaken baby syndrome is not a epiphenomenon confined to the Paris region. Indeed, the study recommends making one on a national scale, to see if 'the increase has been heterogeneous geographically'.

Why such an increase?

In 2020, the year of the first confinement, the number of shaken babies was rather stable. It was only afterwards, with the multiplication of periods of isolation and the various instabilities they caused (emotional, professional, personal, etc.), that the phenomenon was accentuated. In question: isolation, family promiscuity, the relaxation of prevention. Parental distress, to which has been added the perverse effect of successive confinements: the difficulty of access to abortion, which has led to a number of unwanted pregnancies and parents who are uninformed about the issue, less tolerant: 'So many factors that promote violence on the little ones. We have seen more shaken babies, immediate, impulsive abuse. But also more so-called chronic adult violence in slightly older children' analyzed the child psychiatrist Stéphane Clerget, for the The Parisian .

What sequelae is likely to have a shaken baby?

Listed as non-accidental head trauma, shaken baby syndrome results in the death of 10% of the 400 to 500 infants who are struck each year . According to Necker's study, the average age of small victims is 4 months, and mainly concerns boys. 75% of babies admitted to hospital for this form of abuse do not come out unscathed. Le Parisien thus classified the sequelae that affected the 32 babies affected in 2021: 88% suffered a rupture of the bridge veins , 75% had retinal hemorrhages (which can lead to blindness), 32% had fractures , 28% of skin wounds and 38% one epilepsy ; serious consequences, which will affect for some their whole life.

How do we stop this dangerous increase in shaken babies?

The health context may have calmed down for a return to normal effective for several months, the 2022 figures on shaken babies do not augur for their part any improvement. Between January and August, 16 cases have already been admitted to Necker Hospital alone . Also, a new massive prevention operation is urgent, when many parents do not know that an apparently harmless gesture can be so serious. Especially with dads, authors in most cases of jolts. For the child psychiatrist, it is also necessary to put an end to this perverse ambition of the perfect parent, responsible for burnout and overwork. Parents should not be ashamed to ask for help, nor to talk about it with the person in charge of the daily - or occasional - care of the toddler. Finally, it is also important to make it a collective responsibility, by intervening when those close to you seem to be going through a crisis.

Miscarriages of Justice and Parents Wrongly Accused

In 2021, to allow doctors to better diagnose shaken baby syndrome , the High Authority for Health had updated its recommendations. The HAS notably took into account 'the causal mechanism and the dating of the lesions', the version of the adult who accompanies the child, and refined the rest of the criteria. Remember that in case of doubt, the child is hospitalized in pediatric intensive care, while doctors have the obligation to report the case of a shaken baby to the public prosecutor , and to seek the advice of another doctor.

According to the Adikia association, which brings together more than 130 families wrongly accused of child abuse , these recommendations relating to the shaken baby syndrome would be responsible for many miscarriages of justice . Because other cases such as accidental falls, or genetic diseases are not always taken into account. Result: the parents are accused of having shaken their baby. In February 2020, lawyer Grégoire Etrillard and the Adikia association then seized the Board of state to claim the repeal of the recommendations of the High Authority for Health . In 2019, he recalled that the consequences are often terrible, because ' because of a diagnosis presented as 'certain' and that no one can question', court decisions lead' placement of children, separation with the family and the sentencing of innocent people to heavy sentences'. Indeed, many parents testify on the website of the Adikia association, such as Denise, whose son was misdiagnosed 'shaken baby' after fall , or Bella, exonerated when an expert finally recognized her son's hydrocephalus.

HAS recommendations regarding the diagnosis of shaken babies maintained

The Council of State has decided to reject the request of the Adikia association. “Contrary to what is maintained, the recommendation does not indicate (…) that a fall from a low height cannot cause symptoms similar to those of shaken baby syndrome, but notes that the injuries associated with such a fall cannot present the characteristics and location of the lesions associated with shaking' justifies the French high court. She also believes that the recommendation of experts from the High Authority for Health to better diagnose cases of shaken babies ' cannot be regarded, in the light of proven medical knowledge at the date of this decision, as being vitiated by a manifest error of assessment'.

Source journaldesfemmes.fr