Vitamin D is essential for bone health and for cardiovascular and immune function, and in critically ill adults, vitamin D deficiency is associated with more severe illness. But the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its impact on the health of critically ill children is unknown.
In the study, “Vitamin D Deficiency in Critically Ill Children,” in the September 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Aug. 6), researchers tested the 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels of 511 children admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit over a 12-month period.
Results indicated 40 percent of children had vitamin D deficiency, which is a higher prevalence than in the general pediatric population. As with adults, lower vitamin D levels were associated with increased illness severity in children admitted to the intensive care unit. Previously healthy children had lower vitamin D levels than those with underlying chronic illnesses, probably because parents of chronically ill children were more likely to report giving their children vitamin supplements. Contrary to expectations, researchers did not find that children with infections had lower vitamin D status than other critically ill children, with the exception of children who had septic shock.
In conclusion, study authors hypothesize that higher vitamin D levels in children may increase the severity of critical illness brought on by infection or injury. Study authors recommend screening critically ill children with risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.