Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Since the mid-1960's, all infants in the US have received intramuscular vitamin K (IMVK) as a prophylactic measure against hemorrhagic disease of the newborn (HDN). Because the human race has obviously survived for so many years without this medical intervention, there is some question concerning the universal necessity of this practice.

Infants are born with comparatively low levels of vitamin K, a compound vital for the carboxylation of serum clotting factors. In the absence of adequately carboxylated clotting proteins, infants are at risk for developing HDN. This condition can cause severe complications, including mental retardation and death. IMVK significantly reduces incidence of the disease. Though very few infants will develop this condition, supplementation remains universal.

There is some controversy to this practice. One British study showed a possible connection between IMVK and childhood cancer. These results have never been duplicated. Other points of controversy include the invasive nature of the procedure and the incurred cost, particularly where so few infants require prophylaxis.

There are no good criteria for establishing which infants are at risk for HDN. Therefore the conclusion is, as it has been proven safe and the most effective means by which to eradicate HDN, intramuscular vitamin K is a reasonable prophylactic measure in the infant.



Faculty Mentor

Marie K. Walsh

Departmental Honors Advisor

Noreen B. Schvaneveldt