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J Paediatr Child Health. 2012 Sep;48(9):859-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2012.02529.x.

A fatal case of hypernatraemic dehydration in a neonate.

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Helen McMillan Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, New South Wales, Australia.


Problems with lactation can result in hypernatraemic dehydration in the neonate, with potentially severe adverse consequences. This is illustrated in this fatal case of a 10 day old neonate who presented with excessive hypernatraemic dehydration due to insufficient breast milk intake, resulting in cerebral sinus vein thrombosis with cerebral haemorrhage and infarction. Differential diagnosis included excessive sodium intake (through inappropriately mixed formula or house remedies or through hyperaldosteronism) and high water deficit (renal or gastrointestinal losses, nephrogenic or central diabetes insipidus), all of which were ruled out by specific investigations or history. No evidence was found for inborn error of metabolism. The dehydration in this baby, however, was accentuated by trans-epidermal water loss due to an ichthyosiform skin condition. This first ever reported Australian fatality from neonatal hypernatraemic dehydration supports the concern of health care professionals over rising incidences of this entity in exclusively breastfed infants, and should encourage endorsement of improved monitoring of weight loss in newborns and breastfeeding support for their mothers.

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