Sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) accounted for 1 in 3 postneonatal deaths in 2010. Sudden infant death syndrome and accidental sleep-related suffocation are among the most frequently reported types of SUID. The causes of these SUID usually are not obvious before a medico-legal investigation and may remain unexplained even after investigation. Lack of consistent investigation practices and an autopsy marker make it difficult to distinguish sudden infant death syndrome from other SUID. Standardized categories might assist in differentiating SUID subtypes and allow for more accurate monitoring of the magnitude of SUID, as well as an enhanced ability to characterize the highest risk groups. To capture information about the extent to which cases are thoroughly investigated and how factors like unsafe sleep may contribute to deaths, CDC created a multistate SUID Case Registry in 2009. As part of the registry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a classification system that recognizes the uncertainty about how suffocation or asphyxiation may contribute to death and that accounts for unknown and incomplete information about the death scene and autopsy. This report describes the classification system, including its definitions and decision-making algorithm, and applies the system to 436 US SUID cases that occurred in 2011 and were reported to the registry. These categories, although not replacing official cause-of-death determinations, allow local and state programs to track SUID subtypes, creating a valuable tool to identify gaps in investigation and inform SUID reduction strategies.

You do not currently have access to this content.