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Vanderbilt physicians have diagnosed three additional babies with a rare bleeding disorder that is becoming more commonin Tennessee because parents are refusing vitamin K injections at birth.

In total, seven infants between the ages of 7 weeks and 20 weeks, have been diagnosed with vitamin K deficiency bleeding in the past eight months at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. The spate of cases has led doctors there to call for a national tracking system.

The disorder typically affects fewer than one in 100,000 newborns, but Vanderbilt doctors believe incidences are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement.

"There is no tracking of this in the U.S., unfortunately, and cases are rarely reported," said Dr. Robert Sidonio Jr. with the Vanderbilt hospital. "We are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and I worry that people are missing these cases often and not considering this diagnosis when presented with a sick infant."

Mark and Melissa Knotowicz declined the shots for their twins, who were born last summer. At the time, the couple were concerned because they had heard that a preservative in the shot could lead to childhood leukemia. An old study did draw a correlation between the preservative and leukemia, but followup studies disproved that theory, according to Vanderbilt doctors.

When one of the twins became sick, their pediatrician suspected blood poisoning and told them to take the baby to the emergency room at the Vanderbilt children's hospital. Doctors there asked whether the infant had received a vitamin K shot. After learning the baby had not received the shot, they performed CT scans and blood work.

The tests showed the baby had suffered multiple brain bleeds. He spent a week in the hospital and is now undergoing physical therapy for neuromuscular development issues. Doctors do not know yet whether he will suffer problems with intellectual development.

Mark Knotowicz said staff at the Nashville hospital, where the twins were born, did not adequately inform him of the risks from refusing the shots.

The other twin was diagnosed with asymptomatic vitamin K deficiency. Both babies were given vitamin K shots.

Complications from the disorder in the babies treated at Vanderbilt have ranged from brain bleeds to intestinal hemorrhaging.

Babies have been receiving vitamin K shots since 1961, but in recent years parents have been refusing the shots along with childhood vaccines.

Reach Tom Wilemon at 615-726-5961 and on Twitter @TomWilemon.

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