A blown pupil and intracranial hemorrhage in a 4-week-old: a case of delayed onset vitamin K deficiency bleeding, a rare "can't miss" diagnosis.

Document Type


Publication Date




Journal Title

The Journal of emergency medicine

MeSH Headings

Hematoma, Subdural, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Male, Pupil Disorders, Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Vitamin K Deficiency


BACKGROUND: Infants are at risk for vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) because of limited stores of vitamin K (VK) at birth and a low concentration of VK in human breast milk. Therefore, the administration of intramuscular (IM) VK at birth has been recommended since 1961 in the United States. Infants who do not receive IM VK and who are exclusively breast-fed are at increased risk for VKDB. While VKDB is rare, a common presentation of late onset VKDB is intracranial hemorrhage.

CASE REPORT: We report the case of a 4-week-old infant who presented to the emergency department with lethargy and a grossly dilated right pupil. The parents denied trauma. A computed tomography scan revealed a right-sided subdural hematoma with midline shift. The infant's international normalized ratio was >10.9 and his prothrombin time PT was >120 seconds. VK was administered and the child was transferred to a tertiary care center for emergent neurosurgery. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: The difficult part of making this critical diagnosis is considering it. Any bleeding in a newborn without trauma should prompt inquiry regarding neonatal VK administration and a serum prothrombin time level. Fortunately, once the diagnosis is made, therapy in the emergency department can be lifesaving and is familiar to emergency physicians. Treatment parallels usual care for the adult with excess anticoagulation caused by warfarin. Prompt intravenous VK is universally accepted. Studies to support fresh frozen plasma or prothrombin complex concentrate are lacking but make good clinical sense for life-threatening bleeding.



First Page


Last Page