Background: There is near-global consensus that all newborns be given parenteral vitamin K1 (VK1) at birth as prophylaxis against VK deficiency bleeding (VKDB). Breastmilk has a low VK content and cases of late VKDB are reported in exclusively breastmilk-fed preterm infants despite VK prophylaxis at birth.
Objectives: To assess the prevalence of functional VK insufficiency in preterm infants based on elevated under-γ-carboxylated (Glu) species of Gla-proteins, factor II (PIVKA-II) and osteocalcin (GluOC), synthesized by liver and bone respectively.
Patients/Methods: Prospective, multi-center, observational study in preterm infants born <33 weeks’ gestation. Blood samples and dietary history were collected before hospital discharge, and post discharge at 2-3 months corrected age. Outcome measures were serum VK1, PIVKA-II, and %GluOC (GluOC as a percentage of the sum of GluOC plus GlaOC) compared between exclusively breastmilk-fed and formula/mixed-fed infants post-discharge.
Results: Post discharge, breastmilk-fed babies had significantly lower serum VK1 (0.15 vs. 1.81 μg/L), higher PIVKA-II (0.10 vs. 0.02 AU/mL) and higher %GluOC (63.6% vs. 8.1%) than those receiving a formula/mixed-feed diet. Pre-discharge (based on elevated PIVKA-II), only 1 (2%) of 45 breastmilk-fed infants was VK insufficient. Post-discharge, 8 (67%) of 12 exclusively breastmilk-fed babies were VK insufficient versus only 1 (4%) of 25 formula/mixed-fed babies.
Conclusions: Preterm infants who remain exclusively or predominantly human breastmilk-fed post neonatal unit discharge are at high risk of developing subclinical VK deficiency in early infancy. Routine post-discharge VK1 supplementation of breastfed infants to provide intakes comparable to those from formula milks should prevent this deficiency.
- vitamin K deficiency
- vitamin K1