University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics doctor looking for ways to prevent SIDS

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Dr. Gordon Buchanan at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is researching what could be a life-saving link between SIDS--Sudden Infant Death Syndrome-- and SUDEP, or Sudden Death Due to Epilepsy.

SIDS, is the unexplained death of a baby, usually as the child is sleeping. Dr. Gordon Buchanan did a study involving carbon dioxide. Many babies lying in a crib face down will wake up and maybe cry if they start breathing too much CO2.

Dr. Buchanan said infants who have a dysfunctional arousal signal don't wake up when they breathe it in. He said these are some of the same things that happen to people with epilepsy who die in their sleep.

This is the first time that researchers have found a way to link the two together when it comes to CO2 arousal from sleep. He’s hoping to use this information to save lives.

“I think it's critical. You know because these are people that the babies, or people with epilepsy that will die of SUDEP,” said Buchanan. “These are people that otherwise have their whole lives ahead of them."

SIDS is the reason behind more than 1,500 infant deaths every year, while Sudden Death Due to Epilepsy causes more than 3,500 deaths annually.

Dr. Buchanan said the next step is to look into measures to prevent SIDS and SUDEP.

"We can try to come up with better therapies,” he said. “Preventative therapies, or prophylactic therapies. These might take the form of pharmacologic therapies. Like different drugs that people can take. Or medications that people can take."

Buchanan tells parents to put babies to sleep on their backs. Also, get rid of pillows blankets, and stuffed animals from their crib. Instead of blankets, he says have a baby wear extra layers if it's cold.