"Lino Rossi" Research Center
Sudden unexpected fetal death and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) represent facets of a multifactorial problem that has not yet found a univocal approach on the clinical plane. The fundamental component is pathological anatomy.
SIDS is defined as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and a review of the clinical history. The SIDS strikes one infant every 750-1,000 live births, being the most frequent cause of demise within the first year of life.
As reported by WHO, in the Western Countries the unexplained fetal death is about ten-fold more frequent than SIDS. The inherent emotional consequences among families are devastating and the cost of adaptation therapies is particularly heavy, in addition to the damage due to the loss of many potentially productive individuals. The need to submit the young victims to necropsy procedures is unanimously recognized and the chance of preventing the fetal unexpected death and SIDS relies mainly on a better knowledge of the underlying alterations of the autonomic nervous system and etiopathogenetic mechanisms. Similarly, for diagnostic purposes, an accurate and careful examination of the circumstantial and environmental situation is extremely important.
Our studies have revealed frequent morphological alterations of the autonomic nervous system centers checking the vital functions in victims of unexplained fetal deaths and SIDS. These alterations are mainly of congenital nature and therefore represent a common morphological substrate in both fetal and infant sudden death.
The scientific-financial advantages deriving from a better understanding of SIDS and late unexpected fetal death are certainly significant. Indeed, such an understanding would encompass the period of fetal life and early infancy as the premise of many preventive responses to diseases of adulthood, too, and even the elderly.