To determine the incidence of and possible risk factors for unexpected sudden infant deaths (SID) and severe apparent life-threatening events (S-ALTE) that occurred within 24 hours of birth. This was a monthly epidemiologic survey.
Throughout 2009, every pediatric department in Germany was asked to report such cases of unexplained SID or S-ALTE in term infants after a good postnatal adaptation (10-minute Apgar score ≥ 8) to the Surveillance Unit for Rare Pediatric Conditions in Germany. The latter has a capture rate of > 95%. S-ALTE was defined as acute cyanosis/pallor and unconsciousness, requiring bagging, intubation and/or cardiac compressions. Hospitals that reported a case were asked to return an anonymized questionnaire and discharge letter as well as the autopsy protocol in SID cases.
Of 43 cases reported, 17 fulfilled entry criteria, yielding an incidence of 2.6 in 100 000 live births. There were 7 deaths (ie, 1.1/100 000); 6 of the 10 S-ALTE infants were neurologically abnormal at discharge. Twelve infants were found lying on their mother's chest or abdomen, or very close to and facing her. Nine events occurred in the first 2 hours after birth; 7, were only noticed by a health professional despite the mother being present and awake.
SID or S-ALTE may occur in the first 24 hours after birth, particularly within the first 2 hours. Events seem often related to a potentially asphyxiating position. Parents may be too fatigued or otherwise not able to assess their infant's condition correctly. Closer observation during these earliest hours seems warranted.