(HealthDay News) — A brain abnormality may be responsible for more than 40 percent of deaths from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to a study published online Nov. 24 in Acta Neuropathologica.

Hannah Kinney, M.D., a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues examined sections of the hippocampus from 153 infants who died suddenly and unexpectedly between 1991 and 2012. The deaths were classified as unexplained — which includes SIDS — or from a known cause, such as infection, accident, murder, or lack of oxygen.

Kinney’s group found that 41.2 percent of infants who died for an unexplained reason compared with 7.7 percent of those whose death was explainable had an abnormality in the dentate gyrus. Among the 86 infants whose death was classified as SIDS, 43 percent had this abnormality.

This change in the dentate gyrus suggests there was a problem in development at some point late in the life of the fetus or in the months after birth, Kinney told HealthDay, and added that this abnormality has only been seen under the microscope after death, so a child cannot be tested for the abnormality. “Until we understand more about this abnormality, parents should follow the safe sleep recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics,” she said.

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