Thursday, December 11, 2008

A biomechanical analysis finds that shaking can produce retinal hemorrhages

A finite element infant eye model to investigate retinal forces in shaken baby syndrome.
Steven Alex Hans, Sebastian Y Bawab, and Michael L Woodhouse
Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol, December 4, 2008;
Department of Mechanical Engineering, Old Dominion University, 238 Kaufman Hall, Norfolk, VA, 23529-0247, USA,

BACKGROUND: Shaken baby syndrome (SBS) is a form of abuse in which an infant, typically 6 months or less, is held and submitted to repeated acceleration-deceleration forces. One of the indicators of abuse is bilateral retinal hemorrhaging. A computational model of an infant eye, using the finite element method, is built in order to assess forces at the posterior retina for a shaking and an impact motions.

METHOD: The eye model is based on histological studies, diagrams, and materials from previous literature. Motions are applied to the model to simulate a four-cycle shaking motion in 1 second with maximum extension/flexion of the neck. The retinal forces of the shaking motion, at the posterior eye, are compared to an impact pulse (60G) simulating a fall for a total duration of 100 ms.

RESULTS: The shaking motion, for the first cycle, shows retinal force means at the posterior eye to be around 0.08 N sustained from the time range of 50 to 200 ms, into the shake, with a peak in excess of 0.2 N. The impulse, area under the curve, is 15 N-ms for 250 msec for the first cycle. The impact simulation reveals a mean retinal force around 0.025 N for a time range of 0 to 26 ms, with a peak force around 0.11 N. Moreover, the impulse for the impact simulation is 13 times lower than the shaking motion.

CONCLUSION: The results suggest that shaking alone may be enough to cause retinal hemorrhaging, as there are more sustained and higher forces in the posterior retina, compared to an impact due to a fall. This is in part due to the optic nerve causing more localized stresses in a shaking motion than an impact.

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