Pediatrics Clinical Report: Half Century Since SIDS: A Reappraisal of Terminology

SOURCE: Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, Vincent J. Palusci, Benjamin Hoffman, Erich Batra, Marc Yester, Tracey S. Corey, Mary Ann Sens. 2021. Half Century Since SIDS: A Reappraisal of TerminologyPediatrics, 148 (4) e2021053746; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2021-053746

ABSTRACT: After a sudden infant death, parents and caregivers need accurate and open communication about why their infant died. Communicating tragic news about a child’s death to families and caregivers is difficult. Shared and consistent terminology is essential for pediatricians, other physicians, and nonphysician clinicians to improve communication with families and among themselves. When families do not have complete information about why their child died, pediatricians will not be able to support them through the process and make appropriate referrals for pediatric specialty and mental health care. Families can only speculate about the cause and may blame themselves or others for the infant’s death. The terminology used to describe infant deaths that occur suddenly and unexpectedly includes an assortment of terms that vary across and among pediatrician, other physician, or nonphysician clinician disciplines. Having consistent terminology is critical to improve the understanding of the etiology, pathophysiology, and epidemiology of these deaths and communicate with families. A lack of consistent terminology also makes it difficult to reliably monitor trends in mortality and hampers the ability to develop effective interventions. This report describes the history of sudden infant death terminology and summarizes the debate over the terminology and the resulting diagnostic shift of these deaths. This information is to assist pediatricians, other physicians, and nonphysician clinicians in caring for families during this difficult time. The importance of consistent terminology is outlined, followed by a summary of progress toward consensus. Recommendations for pediatricians, other physicians, and nonphysician clinicians are proposed.