Parents refusal of routine vitamin K injection after baby’s birth leads to neurosurgery

A deficiency in vitamin K can lead to uncontrolled hemorrhaging in various parts of the body.

December 22, 2014 15:46
2 minute read.
A newborn baby

A newborn baby. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A month-old girl admitted to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer last week had to undergo surgery on her brain due to significant hemorrhaging because her parents refused to allow her to get a routine vitamin K shot. After five days in intensive care following the operation, her condition improved, and she is due to be sent home in the next few days, the hospital reported on Monday.

Vitamin K plays an important part in the clotting blood; a deficiency can lead to uncontrolled hemorrhaging in various parts of the body. As all infants are born with low levels of the vitamin, they receive an injection before being discharged home that offers full and immediate protection.

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But parents have to sign a hospital form permitting the injection and other invasive procedures such as taking blood from the heel to check for metabolic disorders such as phenylketonuria; a small number refuse with the explanation that they don’t want the baby to “suffer” from the injection. Dr. Lisa Rubin, who is in charge of mother and baby health at the Health Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post she had not known about details of the case at Sheba, but would check it.

The well-baby (Tipat Halav) centers are supposed to check on infants who don’t receive the shot, but some parents don’t take their children to clinics.

Rubin said it is preferable that the baby gets the shot, because under the pressure of being new parents, they may forget to give the drops or how many they have already given. She added that there is no evidence that a vitamin K injection is harmful, but there have been “completely unsubstantiated claims” that it is connected with cancer, just as lifesaving hepatitis B vaccinations have been linked to multiple sclerosis.

Prof. Shlomo Constantini, a senior pediatric neurosurgeon at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s Dana Pediatric Hospital, said he had never performed surgery on an infant with hemorrhaging in the brain due to VDKB, as it is very rare. “The injection is routine. The staff try to persuade parents who refuse. It’s a shame to risk brain surgery by failing to approve the injection.” Dr. Itai Pessah, a senior pediatrician at Sheba’s pediatric intensive care unit, said the baby arrived in very serious condition, with her barely conscious and signs of severe brain damage such as dilated pupils.

She was attached to a respirator, anesthetized and rushed for a brain scan and surgery, which was successfully performed by pediatric neurosurgery Prof. Ze’ev Feldman.

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