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Infant Death Scene Investigation

By definition, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) should be used as a cause of death only after a thorough examination of the death scene, a review of the clinical history, and performance of an autopsy fail to find an explanation for the death. Yet, we know that some Sudden Unexplained Infant Death (SUID) cases are not investigated and, when they are, investigation data are not collected and reported consistently. The Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Reporting Form (SUIDIRF) was designed to assist investigative agencies to better understand the circumstances and factors contributing to unexplained infant deaths. The 2006 Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Reporting Form replaces the 1996 Reporting Form. The SUIDIRF was developed to establish a standard death scene investigation protocol for the investigation of all sudden, unexplained infant deaths.

Some deaths that would have been classified as SIDS before 1999 are now being classified as accidental suffocation or unknown cause, suggesting that reporting practices have changed. Inconsistent practices in investigation and cause-of-death determination hamper the ability to monitor national trends, ascertain risk factors, and design and evaluate programs to prevent these deaths. To standardize investigations of, and reports on, the causes of sudden infant deaths, CDC collaborated with a number of organizations to 1) revise the 1996 Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Investigation Reporting Form, and 2) develop a training curriculum and materials for investigators of infant deaths. CDC disseminated the reporting form and conducted train-the-trainer classes throughout the United States.

2006 Updates to the SUIDIRFclip board photo

  • Contains only questions to which answers will 1) establish cause and manner of death and 2) support investigators’ findings in court.
  • Contains new questions about recently identified risk factors.
  • Answers to the questions can be checked off quickly, which allows for easy, consistent data collection.
  • Questions are in a sequence that works well for infant death investigations.
  • Form is divided into sections, with each section being the responsibility of a particular member of the death investigation team.
  • Supplemental forms for collecting information about contacts and evidence are available for jurisdictions that do not have their own.
  • The SUIDIRF—Electronic Version (SUIDIRF—EV) is available as a MS Access for Windows application data entry system allows users to record the information collected on the SUIDI reporting forms, and generate and print reports from the database.

The SUIDIRF is important for several reasons—

  • Contains 25 questions that medical examiners and coroners should ask before beginning an autopsy.
  • Guides investigators through the steps involved in an investigation.
  • Allows investigators to document their findings easily and consistently.
  • Improves classification of SIDS and other SUIDs by standardizing data collection.
  • Produces information that researchers can use to recognize new health threats and risk factors for infant death so that future deaths can be prevented.