Vitamin K deficiency bleeding of the newborn

Definition

Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) of the newborn is a bleeding disorder in babies. It most often develops in the first days and weeks of life.

Causes

A lack of vitamin K may cause severe bleeding in newborn babies. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting.

Babies often have a low level of vitamin K for a variety of reasons. Vitamin K does not move easily across the placenta from the mother to the baby. As a result, a newborn does not have much vitamin K stored up at birth. Also, the bacteria that help make vitamin K are not yet present in a newborn's gastrointestinal tract. Finally, there is not much vitamin K in mother's milk.

Your baby may develop this condition if:

The condition is grouped into three categories:

Newborns and infants with the following problems involving the gastrointestinal system are more likely to develop this disorder:

Symptoms

The condition causes bleeding. The most common areas of bleeding include:

There may also be:

Exams and Tests

Blood clotting tests will be done.

The diagnosis is confirmed if a vitamin K shot stops the bleeding and blood clotting time (prothrombin time) quickly becomes normal. (In vitamin K deficiency, the prothrombin time is abnormal.)

Treatment

Vitamin K is given if bleeding occurs. Babies with severe bleeding may need plasma or blood transfusions.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook tends to be worse for babies with late-onset hemorrhagic disease than other forms. There is a higher rate of bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage) associated with the late-onset condition.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if your baby has any unexplained bleeding, seizures, or abnormal behavior. Get emergency medical care right away if the symptoms are severe.

Prevention

The early onset form of the disease may be prevented by giving vitamin K shots to pregnant women who take anti-seizure medications. To prevent the classic and late-onset forms, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends giving every baby a shot of vitamin K immediately after birth. Because of this practice, vitamin K deficiency is now rare in the US except for those babies who do not receive the vitamin K shot.


Review Date: 12/13/2017
Reviewed By: Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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