SUDIC is the acronym for “Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy and Childhood” and encompasses all cases in which there is a death (or collapse leading to a death) of a child, which would not have been reasonably expected to occur 24 hours prior and in whom no pre-existing medical cause of death is apparent3.

It is a descriptive term used at the point of presentation, and will therefore include deaths for which a cause is ultimately found.

Other relevant terminology3

SUDI (sudden unexpected death in infancy) – as above, but used to refer to infants up to 24 months of age.

SUDC (sudden unexpected death in childhood) – as above, but refers to children over 24 months of age.

SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) – refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an infant under 12 months of age, with the episode apparently occurring during normal sleep, and which remains unexplained in spite of thorough investigation, including a post-mortem examination, examination of the scene of death and review of the clinical history.

What term should I use?3

It is recommended by RCPath that, professionals working together in response to unexpected child deaths, should use the terms “SUDI/SUDC” at the point of presentation.

Once a clear medical or external cause is established, those deaths can be referred to accordingly.

Infant deaths under 12 months of age that meet the criteria for SIDS can be labelled as such.

How do I know if a death is unexpected?3

If there is any uncertainty about whether the death is unexpected, you should consult the designated paediatrician responsible for child death.

Special Circumstances3

If a death occurs in a newborn, it is classified as a stillbirth if a midwife is present, and a SUDIC if a midwife is not present.

Learning bite

Any unexpected child death is classified as a SUDIC at the point of presentation to the Emergency Department, regardless of whether a cause of death is found subsequently.

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