Article type: Original Research

PUBLISHED 1 January 1981

Volume 6 Issue 2

Cot Death

Alan Williams

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Alan Williams


1 Director of Pathology, Royal Children’s Hospital

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Every fourth morning in Melbourne a mother goes to pick up her baby from its cot only to find that her baby is dead. This statement, which ignores the seasonal incidence of cot death, does indicate however both the frequency and the tragic drama of cot death.

The first recorded case of probable cot death in Australia was recorded in 1810. I say probable as we have no means of knowing whether it would really fit the currently accepted definition of cot death which is “the sudden and unexpected death of an infant in whom a thorough post mortem examination does not disclose an adequate cause of death”. Some infants do die suddenly and unexpectedly from diseases such as myocarditis, meningitis, and gastro-enteritis. But these conditions are readily recognised by the pathologist who examines the baby after death. It is when he is unable to find evidence of any such lethal disease after a thorough examination that he records his verdict as cot death, or as it is usually labelled these days, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

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