Hippocampal malformation associated with sudden death in early childhood: a neuropathologic study: Part 2 of the investigations of The San Diego SUDC Research Project

Marco M. Hefti, Jane B. Cryan, Elisabeth A. Haas, Amy E. Chadwick, Laura A. Crandall, Felicia L. Trachtenberg, Dawna D. Armstrong, Marjorie Grafe, Henry F. Krous, Hannah C. Kinney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC), while rare, accounts for an important fraction of unexpected deaths in children >1 year of age. Previously we reported an association between febrile seizures, hippocampal maldevelopment, and sudden, unexpected deaths in young children (1–6 years), termed “hippocampal maldevelopment associated with sudden death (HMASD).” Here, we characterize in greater detail the hippocampal pathology in a large cohort of cases (n = 42) of this entity, and attempt to define possible new entities responsible for sudden, unexplained death in young children without HMASD/febrile seizure phenotypes. Methods: We performed comparative analysis on cases, which we classified in a cohort of 89 sudden and unexpected deaths as HMASD, explained deaths, SUDC with febrile seizure phenotype (SUDC-FS) but without hippocampal pathology, and SUDC (without hippocampal pathology or febrile seizure phenotype). Results: The frequency of each subgroup was: HMASD 48 % (40/83); SUDC 27 % (22/83); SUDC-FS 18 % (15/83); explained 7 % (6/83). HMASD was characterized clinically by sudden, sleep-related death, term birth, and discovery in the prone position. Key morphologic features of HMASD were focal granule cell bilamination of the dentate gyrus with or without asymmetry and/or malrotation of the hippocampus, associated with significantly increased frequencies of 11 other developmental abnormalities. We identified no other distinct phenotype in the unexplained categories, except for an association of febrile seizures without hippocampal maldevelopment. Conclusions: HMASD is a distinct clinicopathologic entity characterized by a likely developmental failure of neuronal migration in the dentate gyrus. Future research is needed to determine the causal role of HMASD in sudden death in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14-25
Number of pages12
JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016



  • Dentate gyrus
  • Febrile seizures
  • Neurogenesis
  • Sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC)
  • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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