Nutritional rickets under 16 years: UK surveillance results

Arch Dis Child. 2020 Jun;105(6):587-592. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2019-317934. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


Objective: The UK national incidence of nutritional rickets is unknown. We aimed to describe the incidence, presentation and clinical management of children under 16 years with nutritional rickets in the UK presenting to secondary care.

Methods: Prospective data were collected monthly between March 2015 and March 2017 from 3500 consultant paediatricians using British Paediatric Surveillance Unit methodology. Clinicians completed online clinical questionnaires for cases fitting the surveillance case definition.

Results: 125 cases met the case definition, an annual incidence of 0.48 (95% CI 0.37 to 0.62) per 100 000 children under 16 years. 116 children were under 5 years (annual incidence of 1.39 (95% CI 1.05 to 1.81) per 100 000. Boys (70%) were significantly more affected than girls (30%) (OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.25 to 3.78). The majority were of Black (43%) or South Asian (38%) ethnicity. 77.6% of children were not taking vitamin D supplements despite being eligible. Complications included delayed gross motor development (26.4%), fractures (9.6%), hypocalcaemic seizures (8%) and dilated cardiomyopathy (3%). Two children died (1.6%). In eight cases, rickets was confirmed radiologically and biochemically [raised serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels ] but were excluded from the incidence analysis for not meeting the case definition of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of <25 nmol/L.

Conclusion: The incidence of nutritional rickets in the UK is lower than expected. Serious complications and unexpected deaths, particularly in Black and South Asian children under 5 years, occurred. Both vitamin D deficiency and dietary calcium deficiency are role players in pathogenesis. Uptake of vitamin D supplementation remains low.

Keywords: bone disease; nutrition; paediatric practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathy, Dilated / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fractures, Spontaneous / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypocalcemia / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Rickets / epidemiology*
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Sex Distribution
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology