Peter S Blair, Reader in Medical Statistics, University of Bristol
Andrew Ewer, Professor of Neonatal Medicine, Birmingham Women’s Hospital
Marta Cohen, Paediatric Pathologist, Sheffield Children’s Hospital
Daniel Rubens, Anaesthesiologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Institute
Peter Fleming, Consultant Paediatrician, University Hospitals Bristol, Professor of Infant Health and Developmental Physiology, Bristol University
Although the numbers of babies dying as a result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has fallen considerably in recent years, SIDS remains the largest single group of infant deaths after the first weeks of life. Unexpected deaths of older children are very rare, and it is important that we learn as much as possible to try to understand how we may be able to help prevent such deaths in the future.
In 2017, The Lullaby Trust is very proud to be funding an innovative new study which could lead to identifying babies and young children at risk of sudden unexpected deaths, by examining data from the newborn hearing screen test. If the results of this initial study prove conclusive, this could have potentially ground-breaking implications for prevention of SIDS and unexpected deaths of older children in the future.
A study conducted in the USA in 2007 showed differences in the newborn hearing test results of babies who subsequently died as SIDS compared to babies who didn’t. These results need to be confirmed with UK data but one possibility is that these differences are signalling an injury to the brainstem, which may lead to abnormalities of the control of breathing, temperature control or blood pressure.
If the US study is correct, it may be possible to identify a proportion of the infants or young children at high risk of unexpected death, offering the possibility of advice and / or monitoring that may prevent some of these deaths.