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Use of child death review to inform sudden unexplained infant deaths occurring in a large urban setting


Objective To illustrate the benefits and utility of the child death review (CDR) reporting system when examining risk factors associated with infant death occurring within two subgroups of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID)—unintentional suffocation and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)—in a large urban county in Wisconsin.

Design Retrospective CDR data were analysed, 2007–2008, for Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

Patients or subjects Unintentional suffocation and SIDS infant deaths under 1 year of age in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, 2007–2008, with a CDR record indicating a death in a sleep environment.

Main outcome measure Study examined demographic characteristics, bed-sharing, incident sleep location, position of child when put to sleep, position of child when found, child's usual sleep place, crib in home, and other objects found in sleep environment.

Results Unintentional suffocation (n=11) and SIDS (n=40) classified deaths with CDR data made up 18% (51/283) of all infant deaths in Milwaukee County from 2007 to 2008. The majority of infants who died of unintentional suffocation (n=9, 81.8%) or SIDS (n=26, 65.0%) were black and under the age of 3 months. Bed-sharing was involved in most of the unintentional suffocation deaths (n=10, 90.9%) and the SIDS deaths (n=28, 70.0%). All unintentional suffocation deaths (n=11, 100%) and the majority of SIDS deaths (n=31, 77.5%) took place in a non-crib sleeping environment.

Conclusions The study demonstrates how CDR provides enhanced documentation of risk factors to help steer prevention efforts regarding SUID deaths in a community and reaffirms infants in an unsafe sleep environment have an increased risk of death.

  • Child
  • community
  • public health
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