Shaken Baby Syndrome

On this page

What is shaken baby syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is a type of brain injury that happens when a baby or young child is shaken violently. When this happens, the brain can bounce back and forth against the skull which can cause bleeding, bruising, and swelling.

Shaken baby syndrome is known to cause long-term brain damage or even death. Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome may include:

  • Bleeding, bruising, or swelling in the brain
  • Bleeding in the retina (a part of the eye)
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Pale or blue-colored skin

Some symptoms may be noticed immediately while others become evident as the child grows older. Babies and young children who have been shaken violently may develop serious health problems, including:

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Vision problems and possibly loss of sight
  • Problems with body movement and movement control
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal physical sensations or perceptions
  • Neck and spinal cord damage
  • Intellectual disability

Doctors can use imaging tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) to diagnose the disorder. Treatment must be given quickly and some children may need surgery to stop bleeding in the body or machines to help them breathe.

Where can I find more information about shaken baby syndrome?

Information may be available from the following resource:


Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.