There is consensus that late vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) should be prevented by vitamin K prophylaxis. One single dose of 1 mg vitamin K1 is effective if given i.m. or s.c., but not if given orally. Repeated oral doses might be as effective as the parenteral dose but the optimal dose regimen remains to be established. Different oral dose schedules are presently used in different countries. In Australia, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland active surveillance data on late VKDB were collected in a similar manner and failure rates compared. Identical case definitions were used. There were three basic strategies for oral and one for parenteral vitamin K prophylaxis for healthy newborns in the four countries: (1) daily supplementation of low dose vitamin K (25 micrograms) for breast-fed infants (The Netherlands); (2) 3 x 1 mg orally [Australia (January 1993-March 1994) and Germany (December 1992-December 1994)]; (3) 1 mg vitamin K i.m. (Australia since March 1994); and (4) 2 x 2 mg vitamin K (new mixed micellar preparation) (Switzerland). The respective failure rates per 100,000 live births (including cases given all recommended doses and those given incomplete prophylaxis) were for strategy: (1) 0.2 (0-1.3) in The Netherlands; (2) 2.3 (95% CI 1.6-3.4) in Germany and 2.5 (1.1-4.8) in Australia (oral prophylaxis); (3) Australia (i.m. prophylaxis) 0 (0-0.9); and (4) 3.6 (0.7-10.6) in Switzerland. The failure rates for complete prophylaxis only were: strategy (1) 0 (0-0.7) in The Netherlands; (2) 1.8 (1.1-2.8) in Germany and 1.5 (0.5-3.6) in Australia; (3) Australia (i.m.) 0 (0-0.9); and (4) 1.2 (0-6.5) in Switzerland.
Conclusions: The Australian data confirm that three oral doses of 1 mg vitamin K are less effective than i.m. vitamin K prophylaxis. A daily low oral dose of 25 micrograms vitamin K1 following an initial oral dose of 1 mg after birth for exclusively breast-fed infants may be as effective as parenteral vitamin K prophylaxis. The effectiveness of the "mixed-micellar" preparation of vitamin K1 needs further study.