Case report: scurvy in an epileptic child on a ketogenic diet with oral complications

Eur Arch Paediatr Dent. 2008 Sep;9(3):148-52. doi: 10.1007/BF03262627.


Background: Epilepsy is a symptom of cerebral dysfunction, where there is a sudden and disorganised discharge of electrical activity from a group of neurones, producing symptoms that range from sensory absences to convulsive movements and unconsciousness. Fasting is recognised as reducing the frequency of epileptic seizures in difficult to control patients. The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate and adequate protein diet that mimics the biochemical effects of fasting. It is deficient in some essential elements that require supplementation.

Case report: A 9-year old girl with learning difficulties, developmental delay and refractory epilepsy was placed on the ketogenic diet in 2003. Prior to starting the diet she had had as many as 12 tonic seizures/day, with prolonged periods of non-convulsive status epilepticus. Subsequent to being placed on the diet, the frequency of her seizures reduced markedly; there were long periods during which she had none. In late 2006, the patient inhaled a primary molar. This was retrieved by emergency bronchoscopy and at the same time the remaining primary teeth were extracted. Three weeks later she was admitted to hospital with low-grade fever, persistently bleeding sockets, oedema of her hands and feet, a petechial rash and bruising. A differential diagnosis included: liver disease, bleeding dyscrasia, oncological pathology or scurvy. The most striking finding amongst a number of investigations was a vitamin C level of 0.7 micromol/l (Deficiency: < 11 micromol/l). Accordingly a diagnosis of scurvy was made.

Treatment: The patient was prescribed ascorbic acid 500 mg twice/day. Three weeks later the patient's vitamin C level was 141.5 micromol/l; the dose was therefore reduced to 250 mg once/day.

Follow-up: At two-month review, the signs and symptoms of scurvy had resolved.

Conclusion: Inhaling a tooth and scurvy are both rare occurrences. Paediatric dentists should be aware of the possible implications of a ketogenic diet.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Ascorbic Acid / blood
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Diet, Ketogenic / adverse effects*
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Female
  • Gingival Hemorrhage / blood
  • Gingival Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Gingival Hemorrhage / therapy
  • Humans
  • Scurvy / blood
  • Scurvy / etiology*
  • Scurvy / therapy
  • Tooth Loss / etiology*
  • Tooth Loss / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ascorbic Acid