Sudden Unexpected Early Neonatal Death or Collapse in Previously Healthy Term Infants in the First 7 Days of Life

The study aims to establish the current incidence of sudden unexplained death or collapse in the early neonatal period (first 7 days of life) in Australia.

The incidence of sudden unexpected and unexplained death or neonatal collapse is reported as between 0.035/1000 to 0.4/1000 live births. Greater than half of these infants die.

There is currently no national system available in Australia for investigating and reporting these cases.

The study also aims to document the risk factors and outcomes for such cases in Australia, as well as preventative strategies.

In the reported literature many of these infants are found face down on the mother’s breasts suggesting that airway compromise may be a contributing factor. Other risk factors include maternal analgesia, bed-sharing and prone sleeping.

Examination of neonatal sudden unexplained death in infants in NSW has found that the history, examination, and the death scene investigations are incomplete and under investigated.

A recent study using the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit, showed that in 30 of 45 cases there was no identified underlying disease/abnormality but in 24 there was clinical or pathological evidence of airway obstruction while breastfeeding or in a prone position. The authors called for development of guidelines for safe postnatal care of infants, especially for new mothers.

The failure to register on a population wide basis means national guidelines for safe sleeping are inadequate especially in this early postnatal group, as most definitions of SIDS commence after day 7 or 28 days of life.

It is anticipated that the information obtained as a result of this study will lead to the development and initiation of policy directives aimed at safe postnatal management of healthy newborns. Preventative strategies including education programs for parents and carers are important in reducing the incidence of these conditions.