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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2008 Aug;24(8):538-41. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e318180ff32.

Neurological consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency and its treatment.

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  • 1Département des urgences pédiatriques, Hôpital Necker Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


In developed countries, the vitamin B12 deficiency usually occurs in children exclusively breast-fed, whose mothers are vegetarians, causing low stores of vitamin B12. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency appear during the second trimester of life and include failure to thrive, lethargy, hypotonia, and arrest or regression of developmental skills. A megaloblastic anemia can be present. One half of the infants exhibit abnormal movements before the start of treatment with intramuscular cobalamin, which disappear 1 or 2 days after. More rarely, movement disorders appear a few days after treatment, whereas neurological symptoms are improving. These abnormal movements can last for 2 to 6 weeks. If not treated, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause lasting neurodisability. Therefore, efforts should be directed to preventing deficiency in pregnant and breast-feeding women on vegan diets and their infants by giving them vitamin B12 supplements. When preventive supplementation has failed, one should recognize and treat quickly an infant presenting with failure to thrive and delayed development.

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