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01.11.2010 | Ausgabe 6/2010 Open Access

Maternal and Child Health Journal 6/2010

Statewide Systematic Evaluation of Sudden, Unexpected Infant Death Classification: Results from a National Pilot Project

Maternal and Child Health Journal > Ausgabe 6/2010
Sabrina L. Walsh, Richard Kryscio, James W. Holsinger, Henry F. Krous


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded seven states, including Kentucky, to clarify statewide death certification practices in sudden, unexpected infant death and compare state performances with national expectations. Accurate assignment of the cause and manner of death in cases of sudden, unexpected infant death is critical for accurate vital statistics data to direct limited resources to appropriate targets, and to implement optimal and safe risk reduction strategies. The primary objectives are to (1) Compare SUID death certifications recommended by the KY medical examiners with the stated cause of death text field on the hard copy death electronic death certificates and (2) Compare KY and national SUID rates. Causes of death for SUID cases recommended by the medical examiners and those appearing on the hard copy and electronic death certificates in KY were collected retrospectively for 2004 and 2005. Medical examiner recommendations were based upon a classification scheme devised by them in 2003. Coroners hard copy death certificates and the cause of death rates in KY were compared to those occurring nationally. Eleven percent of infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly did not undergo autopsy during the study interval. The KY 2003 classification scheme for SIDS is at variance with the NICHD and San Diego SIDS definitions. Significant differences in causes of death recommended by medical examiners and those appearing on the hard copy and electronic death certificates were identified. SIDS rates increased in KY in contrast to decreasing rates nationally. Nationwide adoption of a widely used SIDS definition, such as that proposed in San Diego in 2004 as well as legislation by states to ensure autopsy in all cases of sudden unexpected infant death are recommended. Medical examiners’ recommendations for cause of death should appear on death certificates. Multidisciplinary pediatric death review teams prospectively evaluating cases before death certification is recommended. Research into other jurisdictions death certification process is encouraged.

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