Île-de-France faced with an unprecedented increase in the number of shaken babies



After more than a year of health crisis, various signals on the mental health of the French seem to turn red. While several heads of child psychiatry have already sounded the alarm on the state of young people, it is the turn of some pediatric neurosurgeons to draw up a particularly pessimistic report.

According to the team at Necker Hospital in Paris, the number of shaken babies has thus increased sharply. “Between January and June 2021, the incidence doubled”, says Thomas Blauwblomme, professor of neurosurgery, who specifies: “From December 2020, we noticed an increase in the arrivals of infants with subdural hematomas. While generally, we take in between 18 and 25 per year, in the first trimester alone, 25 were admitted ”, count the doctor. Since then, the trend seems to continue, despite a slight lull in July. Worse: the injuries are also more serious. Result : “Mortality has gone from less than 10% to 30% and we are seeing more associated lesions”, continues the neurosurgeon.

A precise photograph

Do these figures, which relate to a large hospital center, give an overview of a more global problem, on the whole of the territory? Such an increase is, in any case, not observed in other cities, such as Nantes, reassures Christèle Gras-Le Guen, head of the pediatric service at the CHU, “Although we are also seeing a worrying increase in abuse in general”. The only certainty is that the figures put forward by the Necker hospital constitute a precise photograph of the situation in Île-de-France since it is the only neurological emergency center for the entire region. However, this presents a very particular profile. Highly exposed to Covid-19, residents live in often cramped housing and may now be at their wit’s end.

→ READ. Babies shaken, families denounce an “excess of power” by the High Authority of Health

The presence of old lesions also seems to indicate that some parents did not dare to go to the hospital right away, possibly for fear of the Covid. Hence this reminder: “You have to come to the hospital if you have the slightest doubt, because if you can ruin the life of a child with too sudden a gesture, you can also save him if he is taken care of in time”, insists the Parisian doctor.

“Let the child cry”

Each year, between 150 and 250 babies are thus condemned to sometimes serious consequences for lack of being treated with sufficient care. “You have to remember that you should never shake a child under one year old. The peak of accidents occurs with children of 4 or 6 months who do not yet hold their head. This, which is heavy compared to the rest of the body, then tilts back and forth, which ends up causing certain veins to give way and sometimes creating irreversible brain damage, details Christèle Gras-Le Guen. When adults are feeling a little overwhelmed, it is best to let the child cry alone, lying on their back in their bed, while they calm down. “

Some parents are also reluctant to come to the hospital for fear of being implicated and prosecuted for mistreatment. Thomas Blauwblomme explains, however, that each situation is examined on a case-by-case basis. “ Certainly babies who cannot walk cannot do this on their own. However, there are people who commit the irreparable with a single unfortunate gesture. Not all of them had the will to harm their child ”, he continues. This is why, before talking about mistreatment and making a report to the prosecutor, multiple guarantees are taken by the teams. “We meet as a multidisciplinary staff to bring together a body of evidence: skin lesions, fractures, etc. “, explains the doctor who wants the public authorities to take stock of the problem and launch a major information campaign on this scourge.

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