Date of Award

Summer 2007

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Director

Sebastian Bawab

Committee Member

Ayodeji Demuren

Committee Member

Gene Hou

Committee Member

Michael Woodhouse


Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is a form of abuse where typically an infant, age six months or less, is held and shaken. There may or may not be direct impact associated with this action. Further, there is very little agreement on the actual mechanism of SBS. Clinical studies are limited in showing the exact mechanism of injury and only offer postulations and qualitative descriptions. SBS has received much attention in the media, has resulted in a great deal of litigation and can be the source of unfounded accusations. Therefore, it is necessary to try to quantify the forces that may cause injury due to SBS.

The physiology of infants makes injury due to SBS more likely. Infants have relatively large heads supported by weak necks that simply act as tethers (Prange et al., 2003). Therefore, there is minimal resistance to shaking. In addition, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) layer surrounding the infant's brain is up to 10 mm thick as opposed to 1–2 mm in older children and adults (Morison, 2002). This thick layer reduces the resistance in rotation of the brain and can cause shearing injuries to the brain tissue. In addition, retinal hemorrhaging has been reported in SBS. The infant's eyes have a vitreous that is typically more gelatinous and with a higher viscosity than in adult eyes. In addition, this vitreous is firmly attached to the retina and is difficult to remove (Levin, 2000).

A preliminary parametric model of an infant eye will be presented so that resultant nodal retinal force of the posterior retina can be investigated and compared with a documented shaking frequency and a documented impact pulse. Retinal forces are then compared with various studies that investigate retinal detachment or adhesive strength. This eye model is built using a variety of material properties that have been reported for the sclero-cornea shell, choroids, retina, vitreous, aqueous, lens, ciliary, optic nerve, tendons, extra ocular muscles, optic nerve, and orbital fatty tissue. The geometry of the eye has been carefully optimized for this parametric model based on scaling to an infant from an adult using idealized eye globe geometry and transverse slice tracings of "The Visible Human Project."

This model shows promise in investigating the forces and kinematics of the infant eye exposed to harmonic shaking and further bolsters some of the few biomechanical studies investigating SBS. However, improvements are necessary to complete the eye model presented. Specifically, improvements on the mechanical properties for the components of the eye and especially the infant eye are needed. There is currently a deficit of biomechanical studies of the materials needed for the infant eye that is specifically geared for use in an explicit finite element code package. Conversions and adaptations of available materials are used in this first version of the infant eye model presented here and are in fair agreement with some of the clinical studies concerning SBS.