Observations on Increased Accidental Asphyxia Deaths in Infancy While Cosleeping in the State of Maryland


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Abstract

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has recorded a significant increase of accidental asphyxia deaths in infancy associated with cosleeping in the state of Maryland in 2003. A total of 102 infants died suddenly and unexpectedly during 2003 in the state of Maryland. Of the 102 infants, 46 (45%) were found cosleeping. The frequency of cosleeping among these 102 infants was 28% (29/102) for black infants and 15% (15/102) for white infants. Ten of the 46 cosleeping infant deaths (20%) were determined to be the result of accidental asphyxia, and 28 cosleeping infant deaths (59%) were classified as “undetermined” because the possibility of asphyxia due to overlay while cosleeping could not be ruled out. Only 21 cases were determined to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is consistent with the continuous decline of SIDS death in Maryland since 1994. The age of asphyxiated cosleeping infants ranged from 15 days to 9 months. Nine out of the 10 asphyxia deaths were black infants. The most common sleeping location of the asphyxia infants was on a couch/sofa, followed by an adult bed.Crib availability was documented in all of the cosleeping cases. A majority (61%) of the cosleeping infants (28/46) had an available crib or bassinet at home and 9 out of 10 asphyxiated cosleeping infants had a crib at home at the time of the incident.This report focuses on the detailed scene investigation findings of infant victims who died of asphyxia while cosleeping. The shift of diagnosis in sudden infant death investigation is also addressed.

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