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Vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB is a dangerous but preventable condition which can cause permanent injury to a baby’s brain. In the UK, it is standard maternity practise for babies to be given vitamin K immediately after birth as this is known to prevent VKDB. This means that VKDB brain injury and its devastating consequences are now rare. It also means that unless consent for vitamin K treatment was withheld by the baby’s parents, failure to give vitamin K to a newborn baby is negligent care.

Boyes Turner’s neonatal brain injury lawyers can recover substantial compensation for babies who have suffered VKDB brain injury and disability as a result of negligent maternity care.  Our specialist solicitors have helped countless families of children with cerebral palsy and neurological disability. Each case is handled by experienced solicitors with skill, compassion and care.

Our service to our clients includes:

  • free initial advice from our specialist solicitors;
  • claims handled by solicitors who are top-rated medical negligence specialists by Chambers Directory and the Legal 500;
  • Legal Aid and no-win-no-fee funding options according to what’s best for the child;
  • focussed handling of the claim to secure interim payments whilst the claim is ongoing to relieve financial hardship;
  • Court of Protection deputyship (when needed);
  • SEN advice and support (when needed);
  • top value, court approved settlements which meet the client’s lifelong needs;
  • anonymity orders  (when appropriate).

What is VKDB?

VKDB or vitamin K deficiency bleeding is a bleeding disorder which can affect newborn babies. The condition is sometimes called by its former name, haemorrhagic disease of the newborn or HDN.  It is more commonly known as VKDB because it is caused by a lack of vitamin K.

We need vitamin K in our bodies so that our blood clots normally. This allows wounds to heal and prevents excessive bleeding. Our bodies make some vitamin K from bacteria in our intestines and the rest comes from our diet. Our bodies have a very limited ability to store vitamin K. An adult who is eating a healthy diet usually produces enough vitamin K for their body’s needs.

Babies are born without any vitamin K. In the first few weeks of life their bodies cannot make vitamin K because their intestines do not yet contain the necessary bacteria to produce it. If they bleed, their blood does not have enough vitamin K to form a clot. This puts them at risk of serious injury, particularly severe injury to the brain, from intracranial bleeding.

VKDB may be mild or may only affect non-vital organs. It can also lead to the baby’s death. One third of babies who suffer from VKDB are left with permanent brain damage and long-term disability as a result of  bleeding into their brain.

To prevent babies from suffering this life-threatening condition, it is standard practise in most developed countries to give supplemental vitamin K to all newborn babies. In countries, such as the UK, where vitamin K is given as standard treatment to babies immediately after birth, VKDB is very rare. Sadly, where cases of VKDB occur they may have been caused by negligent failure to give vitamin K, or where the parents of a breast-fed baby have refused to consent to their baby receiving vitamin K treatment.

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Who is at risk from VKDB?

All newborn babies are at risk of serious injury or death from vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) in the first few months of life. This is because their bodies cannot make vitamin K as they do not yet have the necessary bacteria in their intestines.

The risk of VKDB is even greater where:

  • the baby was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • the baby was delivered by caesarean section, forceps or Ventouse suction (kiwi)
  • the baby had breathing problems at birth
  • the baby is solely breastfed (and doesn’t receive the vitamin K that is often added to formula milk)
  • the baby’s mother was taking medication during pregnancy
  • the baby is circumcised
  • the baby has liver disease
  • the baby has a condition which affects their ability to absorb nutrients, such as coeliac disease.

These risk factors are in addition to the existing serious risk that all newborn babies have of developing VKDB. One third of babies who develop VKDB had none of the additional risks.

VKDB is easily preventable by standard maternity treatment in which the baby is given vitamin K, usually by a single injection, immediately after birth.

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What kind of bleeding does a baby suffer with VKDB?

A baby with vitamin K deficiency bleeding may bleed uncontrollably because their blood cannot clot properly. Normal blood clotting is necessary to enable wounds to heal.

Bleeding from VKDB (haemorrhagic disease of the newborn) can occur in areas related to treatment or trauma during birth, such as:

  • from fetal scalp monitoring wounds
  • inside the baby’s head after a traumatic delivery
  • within the chest
  • inside the abdomen

The baby may bleed from non-vital organs, such as:

  • gastrointestinal (within the digestive system)
  • from the skin and mucous membranes, (such as the nose or gums)
  • following circumcision
  • from the umbilical stump.

The most severe injury and disability from VKDB comes from intracranial haemorrhage, where the baby suffers permanent injury from bleeding into their brain.

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Can VKDB be prevented?

Yes. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB) is totally preventable by giving the baby vitamin K immediately after birth. It is standard treatment for babies to be offered vitamin K by a single injection (or in some cases by a series of oral doses) after birth.

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What kind of mistakes lead to VKDB injury compensation claims?

It is recommended that all newborn babies receive vitamin K within 24 hours of birth. Parents who are considering refusing consent for their baby to receive vitamin K should be fully informed of the benefits of vitamin K and the risk of VKDB and the harm it could do to their baby.

Medical negligence claims for compensation for serious injury from VKDB often arise after:

  • failure to administer vitamin K to a newborn baby
  • delayed or negligent treatment with vitamin K
  • withholding vitamin K treatment for a baby without the parents’ informed consent.
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What injuries can lead to VKDB injury compensation claims?

Boyes Turner can recover compensation for children who have suffered severe injury from VKDB caused by medical negligence, such as:

  • brain injury
  • cerebral palsy
  • neurodevelopmental disability
  • death.
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What compensation can be claimed for a child with VKDB brain injury?

Boyes Turner’s neonatal brain injury lawyers can help families recover substantial compensation after their child has suffered serious brain injury from VKDB following negligent maternity care.  Once liability is established, we secure interim payments to help meet our clients’ urgent needs for care, therapies, suitable or adapted accommodation and specialist equipment and relieve financial hardship. Settlements are carefully structured to ensure that money will be available to meet the child’s lifelong needs arising from their disability.

Depending on the individual client’s needs, compensation may be claimed for:

  • their pain, suffering and disability
  • additional care (professional or from family)
  • case management
  • the increased cost of suitable accommodation or home adaptations
  • therapies, such as:
    • physiotherapy
    • occupational therapy
    • speech and language therapy
    • hydrotherapy
  • private medical treatment
  • specialist equipment and aids
  • assistive technology
  • adapted vehicles, wheelchairs and increased transport costs
  • loss of earnings
  • special educational needs (SEN)
  • Court of Protection deputyship
  • other additional expenses associated with the injury and disability.
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"Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator"

Julie Marsh is a first rate litigator who adds real value to all her cases. I have always been impressed not just by her expertise as a clinical negligence lawyer but by the way she treats every client as an individual and works on their case as if it is the most important thing in the world, which to many clients it really is.

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Boyes Turner have a great asset in Julie Marsh, she has handled my case with such professionalism and has kept me informed at every stage over the 6 years. She has given me guidance, support and that personal touch where I could ring or email at any time and she would always answer and give me answers to any questions I had. Would recommend without hesitation. Thank you

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Tara Byrne kept me well informed at all stages of my claim. I have been impressed with the way my case was handled, and the time scale within which a settlement was reached.”

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Boyes Turner helped me through one of the toughest times in my life. They were very professional whilst remaining friendly. At times the process was emotionally tough but they were very patient with me and went through everything with me until I understood it. I cannot recommend them enough. 

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"We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough"

Words cannot express how grateful we are to Susan and her team for the level of commitment and dedication shown to our family during a time which would be difficult for anyone. Susan demonstrates a calm professional manner which helped us to feel at ease. Her level of knowledge has proven to be the best in the field and we fully recommend her to anyone seeking to investigate birth injury claims. You can be confident that Susan and her team will scrutinise the medical notes thoroughly and will keep you well informed throughout the process. We are very pleased with the outcome of our child’s case and know that her work has resulted in justice being achieved. Our family will now be able to move forward in the knowledge that the finances are securely in place for our child to receive a suitable care package, purchase equipment and receive necessary lifelong therapy. We cannot thank Susan and her team at Boyes Turner enough.

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