11/20/02 - SIDS Discovery

Doctors think they may be one step closer to unlocking the mystery behind what causes some babies to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Researchers say a heart malfunction may be to blame. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic found that five percent of the infants they studied, who died of SIDS, had a heart condition called Q-T syndrome, a condition known to cause sudden death in children and adults. One Heartland pediatrician says it's good news, but it doesn't quite solve the SIDS mystery.
Dr. Scott Weiner says, "This may be a small part of the SIDS question we've always wondered about." Dr. Weiner emphasizes the word small, saying the heart condition called Q-T syndrome may be the reason for some sudden infant deaths, but not all of them.
"We're talking about 2000 to 2500 sudden infant deaths a year, which is horrible for the families, but as far as the number of babies born, it's a small amount," he says.
Doctors at Mayo Clinic found five percent of infants studied had Q-T syndrome. Nothing has ever been done linking the condition to SIDS, until now. "The electrical activity of the heart makes the heart pump, when there's a problem with one of the channels of the heart, the heart doesn't recharge itself fast enough," Dr. Weiner says.
Dr. Weiner says Q-T syndrome is hereditary and rare, so many times it goes ignored. He says anyone who has a history of the condition should be sure they and their family are checked. Dr. Weiner adds that SIDS is most common in the first six months of life, and there are things parents can do to protect their babies.
"I think it's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of SIDS cases can be prevented if babies sleep on their backs and moms don't smoke during pregnancy, that's still taking care of a vast majority of cases," he says.
Again, doctors recommend the best ways to prevent SIDS are to make sure your baby sleeps on his back, don't smoke in your babies room, and don't sleep with your baby.