Problems on the diagnosis of sudden infant death syndrome

Katsuhiko Hata, Masato Funayama, Shogo Tokudome, Masahiko Morita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Various autopsy cases of sudden unexpected death (SUD) in infancy were examined at the Tokyo Medical Examiner's Office between 1985 and 1994. More than half of the SUD were diagnosed as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but a number of other causes, such as mechanical asphyxia, were also diagnosed. SIDS is diagnosed by autopsy, but there are no clear diagnostic criteria differentiating SIDS from other causes of SUD. SUD is diagnosed as SIDS when other causes are excluded, but it is difficult to distinguish between SIDS and mechanical asphyxia. There was not a large difference in autopsy findings, or in death scene or statistical data, between SIDS and non-SIDS cases. In their estimation of the diagnostic ratio of SIDS to other causes of death, medical examiners might be divided into three groups: ‘SIDS tolerationist’ examiners think that SUD should be positively diagnosed as SIDS, insofar as another cause of death is not proved clearly. A second group of examiners might be regarded as ‘SIDS exclusionist’; these consider microscopic findings or peculiar death scenes as important contributing factors leading to death. The third group represents a middle stance somewhere between these two. We thought that (forensic) pathologists as well as medical examiners in Japan might have differing stances on SIDS diagnosis. The statistical analysis of SIDS in certain research areas may be affected by the diagnostic ‘preference’ of pathologists belonging to a certain institute. 1997 Japan Pediatric Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-565
Number of pages7
JournalPediatrics International
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1997 Oct
Externally publishedYes


  • Asphyxia
  • Autopsy
  • Medical examiner
  • SIDS
  • SUD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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