Understanding Metabolic Bone Disease in Newborns

newborn baby

Is metabolic bone disease of newborn babies something you should be concerned about?

What Is Metabolic Bone Disease?

In general, the term "metabolic bone disease" refers to a number of bone abnormalities or disorders. In many cases, these disorders are associated with mineral deficiencies, such as calcium magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. Once the deficiencies are detected, the bone disease may be reversible. In other cases, however, bone disorders may be genetic.

In some instances, both a mineral deficiency and a genetic abnormality may be evident. While the genetic incidence may not be treatable, the mineral deficiency may be correctable, thus leading to a significant improvement in the health of a patient.

Understanding Metabolic Bone Disease of Newborn Babies

The diagnosis of metabolic bone disease of newborn babies can certainly be stressful to parents. Their first questions typically include, "Why did this happen?" and "What can be done for my child?" Fortunately, scientific advances have yielded a clearer understanding of this disease, particularly as they address newborn needs. Common questions regarding metabolic bone disease of newborn babies include the following:

  • How is metabolic bone disease diagnosed?-In many cases, doctors analyze the presence of calcium and phosphorus in an infant's urine sample to look for early signs. Pediatricians and specialists often turn to radiographic densitometry to examine the mineral content of the bones. Low levels of phosphorus, vitamin D, and/or calcium may indicate bone disease.
  • How can metabolic bone disease be prevented?-Because many cases of bone disease are directly related to a mineral and/or vitamin deficiency, adequate nutrition may prevent bone abnormalities. Nutritional sources include breast milk and enriched formulas, as well as vitamin D supplements, particularly for premature newborns.
  • What are the symptoms of metabolic bone disease?-Symptoms in newborns may not be apparent. However, preterm infants are often tested because they are at a higher risk of developing bone abnormalities.
  • What are the risks?-Risks for full-term, single births are not as prevalent as the risks for premature, low-birth weight, and multi-birth newborns. This is easy to understand because of several factors. These babies didn't have the extra amount of time in the womb to get additional nutrients, an important part of the last trimester of pregnancy. Much of the bone growth and strengthening occurs during the last several weeks of gestation. Thus, babies who are bone early miss out on this important developmental period. In the same respect, multi-birth babies may not get added nutrients in the womb as well. While you may not think that your baby is getting any exercise in the womb, think again! Intrauterine exercise is another important part of the gestational period, and babies who are born prematurely miss out on this important area of development.
  • What is the treatment for metabolic bone disease?-For more serious cases, calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus may be administered intravenously. However, infants often respond well to the addition of extra vitamins and minerals to breast milk and formula.
  • What is the prognosis for infants diagnosed with metabolic bone disease? Once diagnosis and treatment begin, babies can often live normal, healthy lives without any issues later in life. However, premature babies may experience osteoporosis later into adulthood.

Worrying about your newborn is just part of the package of being a parent. If your baby was born prematurely or born with a low birth weight, your child's pediatrician and the nursing staff are trained to look for problems or issues that might arise with your child's health. If they suspect metabolic bone disease, more testing will be ordered. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this subject or any other health issues, contact your doctor.

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Understanding Metabolic Bone Disease in Newborns