Background: Newborns are at risk for vitamin K deficiency and subsequent bleeding unless supplemented at birth. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding is an acquired coagulopathy in newborn infants because of accumulation of inactive vitamin K-dependent coagulation factors, which leads to an increased bleeding tendency. Supplementation of vitamin K at birth has been recommended in the United States since 1961 and successfully reduced the risk of major bleeding. Refusal or omission of vitamin K prophylaxis is increasing and puts newborn infants at risk for life-threatening bleeding.
Patients: Over an eight month period, we encountered seven infants with confirmed vitamin K deficiency; five of these patients developed vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
Results: The mean age of the seven infants with vitamin K deficiency was 10.3 weeks (range, 7-20 weeks); manifestations ranged from overt bleeding to vomiting, poor feeding, and lethargy. None of the infants had received vitamin K at birth, and all were found to have profound derangement of coagulation parameters, which corrected rapidly with administration of vitamin K in IV or intramuscular form. Four of the seven infants had intracranial hemorrhage; two of these infants required urgent neurosurgical intervention.
Conclusion: Supplementation of vitamin K at birth for all newborns prevents major hemorrhagic complications, such as intracranial bleeding, due to vitamin K deficiency. Parental refusal of vitamin K is increasingly common. It is critical that health care providers and the public be made aware of the varied presentation of this preventable acquired coagulopathy.
Keywords: hemorrhagic disease of the newborn; intracranial hemorrhage; vitamin K; vitamin K deficiency bleeding; vitamin K prophylaxis.
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