Hepatitis and Cholestasis in Infancy: Clinical and Nutritional Aspects

Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2003 Sep;91(441):101-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2003.tb00656.x.


A major complication of cholestasis is fat malabsorption related to decreased intestinal bile acids, which leads to malnutrition and fat-soluble vitamin deficiency. The impaired excretion of bile acids leads to a low intraluminal micellar concentration that causes long-chain triglyceride lipolysis and absorption to be ineffective. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are more readily absorbed when there are low concentrations of bile acids and therefore are a good source of fat calories; MCTs can be administered as MCT-containing formulas. In those children who are unable to take sufficient calories by mouth, it is important to start nocturnal enteral feeding to improve nutritional status. In infants with cholestasis, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) that require bile acids is also impaired, and supplementation is mandatory. Vitamin K deficiency may be responsible for hypoprothrombinaemia, which may lead to bleeding diathesis, Vitamin K (phytomenadione) should therefore be promptly administered intravenously, at a dose of 1 mg. Chronic vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) deficiency is associated with a progressive neuromuscular syndrome that can cause cerebellar ataxia, areflexia and peripheral neuropathy. Supplements are given orally in doses of 3-5 times the normal requirement if cholestasis is incomplete. In complete cholestasis, supplements must be given intramuscularly at monthly intervals. In infants who fail to thrive, dietary supplements of carbohydrate polymers and MCTs are required.

MeSH terms

  • Cholestasis / complications
  • Cholestasis / physiopathology*
  • Hepatitis / complications
  • Hepatitis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Nutrition Disorders / etiology
  • Nutrition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Vitamins / metabolism


  • Vitamins