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Vitamin K deficiency
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Vitamin K deficiency

Contributors: Abhijeet Waghray MD, Christine Osborne MD, Marilyn Augustine MD, Paritosh Prasad MD, Eric Ingerowski MD, FAAP
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Vitamin K is a lipid-soluble vitamin absorbed in the terminal ileum and found predominantly in green leafy vegetables or synthesized by colonic bacteria. It is responsible for the synthesis of coagulation proteins.

*In neonates, vitamin K deficiency is a potentially life-threatening emergency.*

Infants are at highest risk for vitamin K deficiency due to low levels of transmission across the placenta, low levels in breast milk, and inefficient production of vitamin K in the colon due to low levels of colonic bacteria. Infants with vitamin K deficiency present with hemorrhagic disease of the newborn at days 1-7 of life with intracranial or retroperitoneal hemorrhage, petechiae, or mucosal bleeding. An acute form associated with maternal medications that inhibit vitamin K synthesis (some antiepileptic agents) may present in the first 48 hours of life, and a delayed form can be seen out to several months from birth, generally exclusively in breast-fed babies whose parents decline to use prophylactic vitamin K supplementation.

In adults, vitamin K deficiency is generally due to dietary insufficiency or malabsorption syndromes. Conditions such as celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, short gut syndrome, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and primary biliary cholangitis can impair absorption. Chronic antibiotic use and total parenteral nutrition (TPN) dependence are other causes. Adults with vitamin K deficiency present with easy bleeding, mucosal bleeding, or easy bruising.


E56.1 – Deficiency of vitamin K

12546009 – Hemorrhagic disease of the newborn due to vitamin K deficiency
52675005 – Vitamin K deficiency

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Warfarin, heparin, rat poison, or other blood thinner use
  • Von Willebrand disease
  • Scurvy
  • Liver disease
  • Early Disseminated intravascular coagulation
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Other causes of bleeding, including leukemias

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:02/06/2018
Last Updated:03/14/2018
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Vitamin K deficiency
A medical illustration showing key findings of Vitamin K deficiency : Easy bruising, Hematuria, Splinter hemorrhage, Ecchymosis, Melena, Gingival bleeding, PT prolonged
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.