Tiny babies come into the world and appear as fragile as glass to first time parents.  Moms and dads soon learn to put their fears aside and trust their instincts.  Most babies are strong and healthy and do very well within the first weeks and months of life.

From time to time, however, symptoms present that leave Kansas City parents scratching their heads and wondering, "What is wrong with my baby?"  Sometimes the answers are clear.  Other times, as in the case of infantile rickets, the symptoms are so ominous and inconclusive; parents and even doctors have a tough time nailing down the actual cause. 

Worse yet, sometimes medical professionals mistake the symptoms of infantile rickets as something far more sinister.  Rickets has been misdiagnosed as signs of child abuse, causing a nightmare for the child's parents.  If the suspicions are brought to the attention of child protective services, the nightmare can turn into a fight for regaining custody of a child unfairly removed from his or her home.

Exactly what is rickets, and how can it be misdiagnosed as child abuse?  Rickets is a bone disorder caused by low Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphate levels that can cause the following symptoms:

1.      A tendency toward multiple fractures

2.      Bone pain

3.      Uncontrolled muscle spasms and twitching

4.      Bowed legs and knees in older babies

5.      Soft or malformed skull, thin cranial bones

6.      Growth and developmental delays

7.      Deformed chest and ribs

8.      Fragile bones When a child or an infant presents with unexplained bone pain, healthcare workers may systematically discover previously unknown fractures or bone deformities.  The hospital or doctor's office may immediately initiate the office's child protection protocol, which includes contacting protective services.

The actual reason for the fractures can be due to rickets and while the nutritional deficiency has been greatly reduced in developed countries like the United States, many infants are still susceptible including breastfed children whose mothers have inadequate Vitamin D and mineral levels themselves.  Mothers with darker pigmentation may have reduced levels as well.  Additionally, rickets can be caused by other conditions that disrupt the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the bones.  Kidney and liver diseases that interfere with the metabolism of Vitamin D can be a cause as well.

Healthcare workers, doctors, and hospitals owe the patient and the patient's family a complete investigation of all possible causes of fractures and bone abnormalities.  Complete medical histories must be taken.  Often, workers fail to recognize the fact that the fractures may be present without external lesions or bruises.  Infants and young children are often not tested for Vitamin D and mineral deficiencies, a simple practice that can quickly clear up the cause of symptoms as infantile rickets.  When toddlers and older children present with bowed legs, uneven gait and an unsteady posture the doctors and nurses should routinely investigate for pediatric rickets.  Failure to follow

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.